National plan for M. bovis programme focused on eradication and supporting farmers

The three partners working to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) have reaffirmed their commitment to achieving eradication and supporting farmers through the eradication process.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand released the 2019 M. bovis National Plan at a meeting with farmers in Hamilton today.

The plan sets out three clear goals:

  • to eradicate M. bovis from New Zealand
  • to reduce the impact of the disease and the eradication programme for everyone affected
  • to leave New Zealand’s biosecurity system stronger.

The 2019 National Plan can be read HERE.  Continue reading

MPI reports encouraging results as bulk milk testing nears final stage

Results from the current nationwide bulk milk testing for Mycoplasma bovis are encouraging after completion of around three quarters of the testing, Ministry for Primary Industries’ Mycoplasma bovis director Geoff Gwyn says.

So far, only three farms have been confirmed with Mycoplasma bovis through the milk testing, he says.

All three properties were already part of the ministry’s tracing programme and all have previously known links to the disease. One of these properties was under surveillance and the other two were about to go under surveillance.

Under the testing programme, milk samples from every New Zealand dairy farm are being taken shortly after calving, when cows are most likely to be shedding the bacterium.

For each farm, the first sample was collected around four weeks from the start of milk supply. Samples are then collected every two weeks, with a total of six samples from each farm.

More than 51,000 of the approximately 70,000 tests have been completed.

Nearly all farms have had three rounds of testing and around 10,000 farms have had four rounds. About 1,500 farms have completed all six rounds.

“The fact that we have confirmed Mycoplasma bovis on only 3 farms, and that all three of them were already on our radar, is encouraging,” Mr Gwyn says.

“It reinforces our belief that we are dealing with a single strain of Mycoplasma bovis, based on the available scientific evidence and our own work in the field.

“While this remains an extremely difficult time for affected farmers, and we still have a lot of work to do, I’m confident we are on the right path in terms of tracking down the disease and eradicating it from New Zealand.”

Full results from the bulk milk testing are expected to be delivered to the majority of farmers in the North and South islands in early December.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

Mycoplasma bovis survey of calf rearers under way

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and its farming industry partners have taken the next step in the phased eradication of Mycoplasma bovis by starting a survey of about 200 calf rearing properties across the country.

The test involves a simple one-off nasal swab on calves at the property.

National controller Geoff Gwyn emphasised that the properties selected are not suspected of having Mycoplasma bovis.

 “The identified properties have no connection to other properties which are being tested or at risk of having M. bovis,” he says.

“In fact, if properties are connected to M. bovis properties they are being discounted from this survey as we will already be testing them as part of the response.

“This will give us some indication about the prevalence of M. bovis in beef herds.”

Both animal movements and milk supply, the two high-risk pathways of infection, would be captured.

“By targeting around 200 farms which source calves from at least five different locations, we are actually targeting at least 1,000 farms as the source farms will also have some assurance they are M. bovis free,” Mr Gwyn says.

Find out more about Mycoplasma bovis HERE. 

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries

New round of Mycoplasma bovis milk testing to start

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is about to carry out a second round of nationwide milk testing, checking the country’s dairy herd for the presence of Mycoplasma bovis.

Under the programme, milk samples from every New Zealand dairy farm will be taken shortly after the start of calving, when cows are most likely to be shedding the bacterium. Samples will be collected from each farm approximately 4 weeks following the start of supply, with the first samples expected to be collected in the North Island in late July.

Mycoplasma bovis is difficult to test for because animals can be carrying the bacteria but not appear ill or show evidence of it in their blood or milk.

Testing at this time of year, when cows are in the early weeks of lactation and under some physical stress (and therefore more likely to be shedding), will yield the most accurate results and provide further information and assurance about the location of the disease in New Zealand.

MPI’s director of response Geoff Gwyn says farmers won’t have to do anything because all test samples will be collected as part of the standard on-tanker test process.

“Samples will be collected from each farm every 2 weeks up to a total of 6 samples over 12 weeks and tested by Milk TestNZ. Tests will look for both the presence of antibodies to Mycoplasma bovis and also the DNA of the bacterium.”

Mr Gwyn says the bacterium itself presents no food safety concern. Most dairying countries live with Mycoplasma bovis and safely consume milk products.

Farmers can expect to receive more information about the testing programme from their dairy companies this week.  Dairy companies are working with MPI to support the delivery of the programme, and the wider Mycoplasma bovis eradication plan.

Once the programme is completed, farmers with “not-detected” results will receive an email from their dairy company confirming the disease has not been found in their samples. Those in the North Island will receive their results on or before 1 November and those in the South Island will hear on or before 15 November.

Any farm that has a sample where Mycoplasma bovis is detected will be contacted immediately by MPI and given details of the next steps.

Mr Gwyn says farms that receive a not-detected result can take some assurance that the bacterium was not in the samples provided.

“Unfortunately, however, the complex nature of Mycoplasma bovis means results cannot be taken as a guarantee the farm is free of the infection.”

As the eradication programme continues, it’s likely that more rounds of this testing will take place to ultimately confirm that the disease is gone and eradication has been successful.

Find out more HERE. 

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries  

Mycoplasma bovis is found for the first time in Waikato

Biosecurity New Zealand, a unit of the Ministry for Primary Industries, today confirmed that a farm in the Cambridge area has tested positive for Mycoplasma bovis.

The Waikato region dairy farm was identified through the tracing of cattle movements from infected properties and has been put through an exhaustive testing process to achieve a reliable result. The farm is under strict controls preventing the movement of animals and other risk goods on and off the property.

Biosecurity New Zealand’s response director Geoff Gwyn says it is very disappointing to find the disease in another of New Zealand’s key dairying regions.

But it was not a huge surprise, given the number of farms found to have received cows and calves from affected farms.

“It’s a reality of New Zealand’s farming system that large numbers of animals are sold and moved across big distances,” he said.

“This response is serving to underline just how much movement takes place and it is this, coupled with poor record keeping through NAIT that is making our job very challenging.”

The new Cambridge positive takes the number of infected properties across the country to 39.

Since the beginning of the response, Biosecurity New Zealand (MPI), animal industry bodies, vets and farmers have been intent on identifying new infected farms, containing the disease, and keeping all options open to make the best possible decision on how the disease should be managed in future.

Mr Gwyn said many ministry staff, along with our partners in industry, are putting in big hours to gather the information needed to make such a significant decision.

A key question: should New Zealand attempt to eradicate the disease or move to some form of management over the long term?

“It is not an easy decision to make,” Mr Gwyn says.

“All options remain on the table, but we are now looking harder at the possibility of having to manage it over the long term.

“A decision is expected by the end of this month. It’s taking time because we want to get it right and we are working hard with industry representatives to get us in the best place to make the best decision.”

DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand have been involved in the disease and cost modelling work that is needed to develop options.

DairyNZ is also providing support directly to farmers to help them make compensation claims.

The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Federated Farmers, and the Meat Industry Association also have been involved in the governance of the response and are making important contributions to it operationally.

Whatever decisions are made later this month around eradication or long-term management, a joined-up approach between government and industry organisations will be critical for supporting farmers, Mr Gwyn said.

Source: Biosecurity New Zealand


Second North Island farm confirmed positive for Mycoplasma bovis

The Ministry for Primary Industries today confirmed its testing has found a second farm in the North Island with positive Mycoplasma bovis infection.

The Ministry’s director of response, Geoff Gwyn says the affected farm is a mixed sheep and beef property in the Pahīatua area, near Palmerston North in the Manawatū.

“This farm has been identified through tracing and use of NAIT (National Animal Identification and Tracing) records and is connected to other infected properties through animal movements.

“The farmer concerned has been very cooperative with movement controls and has not moved any animals off the property, except to slaughter, since even before legal restrictions were issued,” Mr Gwyn says.

The ministry says this is the second North Island detection but it should not be considered a major turning point in the response.

“This is, in fact, just a further property uncovered through robust tracing activity. It is likely we will find further positive properties as this tracing continues.

“We have a number of farms in the North and South Islands under quarantine while we carry out testing. The reality of farming is that large numbers of cattle are routinely moved about the country.

“This Pahīatua detection is part of the large network of associated farms that we are finding,” says Mr Gwyn.

As well as the Pahīatua property, the ministry confirms two further positive properties in Southland. Both these farms are also mixed sheep and beef farms. There are no further positive properties to report at this time, including in the Waikato as has been speculated.

The ministry has updated its situation report to show:

  • Infected properties: 35.
  • Properties under Restricted Place Notices: 53 (includes the 35 infected properties).
  • 3 Restricted Place Notices and 36 Surveillance Notices of Direction have been revoked.
  • Animals culled as response control measure: Just over 8,000 on 8 properties.
  • A further 3,000 animals are expected to be culled by the end of this week.
  • A final decision on future management of the disease is still to be made.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

Commercial Mycoplasma bovis test for farmers to apply is being developed

A commercial diagnostic tool, which will allow farmers to do their own testing for the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis is being developed by a partnership comprising commercial laboratories, industry representatives and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The tool will be released once sampling guidelines, a testing strategy, and possibly an accreditation programme have been developed – to ensure the test can be accurately applied and interpreted.

The ministry’s response director, Geoff Gwyn, said  the partnership had been working hard to provide practitioners and farmers with better diagnostic tests to assist in detecting the cattle disease on their farms since the discovery of Mycoplasma bovis in New Zealand last year.

“However, while testing options and solutions are becoming available, we have identified that interpreting a one-off test result, even at the herd level, in isolation to other factors, is challenging and carries an inherent risk for farmers when in isolation to other factors,” Mr Gwyn said.

“The tests currently available will lead to a significant number of farms being falsely identified as positive and farms that may be real positives being missed.

“That’s why we are developing robust processes, including a testing strategy and sampling guidelines, which may form part of an accreditation programme.”

The partnership behind the test programme includes representatives from NZ Veterinary Association, Beef and Lamb NZ, DairyNZ, Dairy Companies Association of NZ, Federated Farmers, AsureQuality, MilkTest NZ, Livestock Improvement Corporation, New Zealand Veterinary Pathology, SVS Laboratories, and Gribbles Veterinary Pathology.

The veterinary association’s chief veterinary officer, Helen Beattie, said the partnership was focused on helping farmers who were dealing with the many uncertainties around the disease.

“All parties in this partnership are acutely aware of the need for a robust on-farm solution for farmers who are concerned about Mycoplasma bovis. All parties are working urgently on developing this tool, and all the elements needed to support it.”

Any accreditation programme will likely not only consider test result, but also factors such as herd management, animal health, and record keeping (including NAIT records) – all of which will be used to inform farmers of the likely risk of Mycoplasma bovis in their herd.

The ministry is continuing to test milk from every dairy farm in New Zealand – a comprehensive programme that is nearly complete and is being implemented alongside extensive surveillance work to trace every possible movement of animals from infected farms.

“We acknowledge that some farmers may be disappointed they don’t have access to a commercial diagnostic tool now to give them some certainty about whether their animals, or animals they may be purchasing, carry the infection. However, it’s critically important that we don’t rush this – we have to get it right,” said Mr Gwyn.

More information about Mycoplasma bovis can be found HERE. 

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

Technical reports released: experts say eradicating Mycoplasma bovis will be difficult and expensive

Government experts have endorsed the steps taken to manage Mycoplasma bovis 

But they say that while eradication of the disease remains technically possible, it would be difficult, time-consuming and costly.

The advice is contained in reports by a Technical Advisory Group to its Mycoplasma bovis response and an internal report examining potential entry routes (pathways) to New Zealand for the disease.

The Ministry for Primary Industries released the reports yesterday.

References to possible legal breaches in relation to how the disease entered the country won’t be released until those matters were sufficiently examined by compliance investigators.

The documents released are:

The ministry’s director of response, Geoff Gwyn, says forming a technical advisory group is a routine part of complex biosecurity responses.

“TAGs give us an independent perspective on what we’ve done and help us take the best possible course of action going forward.

“In this case, the group has found the significant work undertaken by MPI and industry to understand the disease and limit its spread meets internationally-recognised standards.

“The report also suggests enhancements to our work programme that could be made as the response continues. This is the purpose of the report and most of the recommendations have been actioned,” Mr Gwyn says.

The advisory group reports that, despite clear links between infected properties, the extent of the infection, the complexity of diagnostic tests, and deficiencies in record-keeping around animal movements will make the task of eradication difficult and expensive.

The group’s updated advice in February found a minority of members felt successful eradication was less likely than had been assessed in the earlier December report, due to the likelihood of undetected spread since (possibly) 2015, the scale of tracing required, and the failure of NAIT (the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme) to fully track animal movements.

But Mr Gwyn says a range of options remain for consideration before a final decision can be made.

“The TAG’s advice will help us as we consider whether to proceed with eradication or pursue other options for managing the disease in the longer-term.

“There is critical work being done to model the potential spread of Mycoplasma bovis under different scenarios and in understanding the costs and benefits of decisions around eradication.

“We are confident the disease is not well established in New Zealand and we now need to complete our analysis and planning.

“The decision taken earlier this week to depopulate infected farms will reduce disease pressure and put us in the best position to eradicate or move to long-term management when that decision is made.

“We are taking the appropriate time to reach the right decision. There is much to consider, including the cost benefits and the effects on farmers and their families and on animal welfare. We all want to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis – but it has to be technically possible, practically achievable, and affordable for everyone.”

The technical advisory group will be reconvened for the third time in the next few weeks to discuss next steps.

The report containing the ministry’s analysis of potential entry pathways for the disease examines seven potential routes of entry – imported live cattle, other imported animals, imported frozen semen, imported embryos, imported veterinary medicines and biological products, imported feed, and imported used farm equipment.

The report does not reach any conclusion about the likelihood of any of the seven risk commodities being responsible.

This report was completed in late November as a snapshot, based on information known at that time.  The ministry continues to examine potential entry pathways.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

Ministry calls for cull on all properties with Mycoplasma bovis-infected cattle

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has determined that all cattle on properties infected with the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis will be culled.

The ministry’s response director, Geoff Gwyn, said the depopulation of entire herds on all 28 Infected Properties (IPs) in New Zealand was a critical measure to control the spread of the disease

“… and we will be working closely with those farmers to plan how this will happen.

“This will be a big job and won’t happen overnight, but we’ll be meeting with the affected farmers in the coming days to discuss the operation, develop the plans and talk through compensation.”

All IP farmers will be compensated for their verifiable losses.

The ministry continues to build its compensation team to ensure farmers are compensated as quickly as possible. Once farms are de-populated and cleaned, the farmers can start re-building a disease-free herd from scratch.

Mr Gwyn says:

“We are able to take this decision now because we are confident Mycoplasma bovis is not well established in New Zealand.

“The testing of milk from every dairy farm in New Zealand is very well advanced and to date has only identified one new infected property.

“This, combined with MPI’s extensive surveillance work tracing every possible movement of animals from infected farms, gives us the confidence to say the disease is not widespread, but is limited to a network of farms connected by animal movements. Culling these animals is now the appropriate action.”

Non-infected farms that are under Restricted Places Notices (RPN) or Notices of Direction (NoDs) are not yet being asked to cull their herds because infection has not  been confirmed on them.  Confirmation relies on the defining genetic test which provides complete confidence that animals on a farm are positive.

Mr Gwyn says the ministry will work with farmers to develop individual management plans for each of these properties – until a decision on whether to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis or move to long-term management is made.

“We all want to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis – but it has to be technically possible, practically achievable and affordable for everyone.  Our focus is on the resilience of our dairy and beef industries which are such significant contributors to our economy, and on farmer well-being and the welfare of animals.

“Whatever option is taken, we will need to see some big changes in on-farm biosecurity and NAIT compliance. There remains a big job to do around this disease, and there is no quick exit from this situation.”

While the ministry and its industry partners will continue to focus on surveillance and tracking the spread of the disease, there is critical work being done to model the potential spread of Mycoplasma bovis under different scenarios and in understanding the costs and benefits of decisions around eradication.

The ministry had been working on this since the disease was detected and seven farms were depopulated in December.

Further culling was halted until the ministry better understood the spread of the disease.

“We are now at that point where we have that understanding and can complete this work with confidence,” says Mr Gwyn.

“We now believe the disease is not endemic and we can complete this analysis and planning, but we will take care and time to get it right because decisions about the future management of this disease are too important to rush.”

There are 28 active Infected Properties but only 22 have cattle remaining on them that will need to be culled.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries