Joint M. bovis eradication plan reaches significant milestone

Four years into a world-first attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, agreed jointly between the Government and farming sector groups, just one infected property remains in New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor marked the milestone at the national bulk milk testing lab MilkTestNZ in Waikato today alongside eradication partners DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ.

“When we took our one shot to eradicate we did so to protect our national herd from a painful disease, our economy from a sharp shock, and our rural communities from widespread anxiety,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Our partnership with the primary sector was critical. No one in the world had attempted to eradicate M. bovis before, and if we were going to try something that had never been done, we needed to do so together.

“I want to acknowledge how tough it’s been for those farmers who have lost their herds and stock genetics built up over decades. Your action has preserved our productive sectors that underpin the prosperity of all New Zealanders.

“I acknowledge this important milestone today from which we can move forward into the next stage of the programme, to progress our goal towards eradication,” Jacinda Ardern said. Continue reading

Independent report on M.bovis response welcomed

Biosecurity and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has welcomed an independent review into the Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme, which has found it is on track to achieve eradication and made recommendations to boost biosecurity work.

The review finds the programme is running well and is on track to achieve the world first of eradicating M.bovis, Mr O’Connor said.

It also notes the impact on farmers involved and the work the programme has done over the past two years to make necessary improvements, following a difficult start.

“We are now in a situation where we are down to four infected farms, all of which are situated in Canterbury.” Continue reading

Latest M.bovis Technical Advisory Group report is released

The latest report from the independent Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for the Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) response shows New Zealand is on track to eradicate the disease.  

“The TAG report acknowledges the improvements to our work, which aim to lessen the impact on affected farmers, their whānau, workers and rural communities,” says M. bovis Programme Director Stuart Anderson.

“I know that farmers who have been impacted have found the process challenging. Their contribution has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated, and 4 years on since the disease was first detected, immense progress has been made towards eradication. We now have just 3 active confirmed infected farms, compared to 34 farms 2 years ago.” Continue reading

Science and research were mentioned in the Budget speech – but the ag/hort sector had to hunt for something for them

We listened closely for a mention of “science” in the Budget speech.

If we had triumphantly downed a glass of our favourite tipple to celebrate, each time the word was dropped into Finance Minister Grant  Robertson’s carefully crafted text, we could have driven off afterwards and – if stopped by the police – would have comfortably passed the breathalyser test.

There was just one mention of “science” and it had nothing much to do with the work of ag/hort scientists.  Rather, it was related to the government’s response to COVID-19.

“It has been recognised around the world as not only a leading successful, science-driven public health response but also as a strong economic response….”

We could have done the same thing, to celebrate each mention of the word “research”, without denting our sobriety.

Again, there was just one use of that word.  Mr Robertson spoke of the government’s goal to diversify and lift the value of what we produce, and to grow the range of places to which we sell our goods and services. Continue reading

What a dry winter would mean for the ag/hort sector – and for the country

New Zealand may be heading into a dry winter following a month of near record-breaking dry patches across the country.

What are the flow-on effects if insufficient rain falls during the cold season?

The Science Media Centre asked experts to comment on how the potential dry season may affect …

  • Rural communities and agriculture
  • Hydro energy production
  • The environment

These experts have responded: Continue reading

Mycoplasma bovis update: two new Active Confirmed properties in Canterbury

The Mycoplasma Bovis (M. bovis) Programme has advised of two new Active Confirmed properties in Canterbury, bringing the total to seven.

One Mid Canterbury/Ashburton property is directly linked by animal movements to an infected property detected from the Programme’s August Bulk Tank Milk screening.

The second property, in Canterbury/Selwyn district, was confirmed following a detect result from the September Bulk Tank Milk screening.

These newly confirmed properties demonstrate the Programme’s National Surveillance working as it should – detecting possible cases and showing us where to look to eliminate the infection.

Beef + Lamb NZ is emphasising this is not an outbreak – the M. bovis Programme is actively looking for final pockets of infected properties and fully expected to find more over spring, a time when there are more samples to test, animals are under stress from calving and 2018 heifers are entering the milking platform for the first time.

Nor does it appear widespread — no additional farms in the Mid Canterbury/Ashburton district other than those three dairies originally detected in August were found in September or October Bulk Tank Milk screening, giving confidence this is an isolated cluster connected by animal movements.

This underscores the need for NAIT records to be kept. They help to trace infected animals faster and stop the spread of the disease to other herds and other farms.

Incomplete NAIT records impede tracing infected cattle.

The M. bovis Programme’s surveillance tools like the bulk tank milk screening programme and beef sector surveillance have been developed to not only help find any remaining infection faster, but to give us all confidence long-term that New Zealand is free from the disease

The Programme is working closely with all affected farmers, their staff and families to ensure things run as smoothly as possible, and that they are well-supported.

Source:  Beef + Lamb NZ

Update on M. bovis programme: $174.6 million has been paid out in compensation

Beef + Lamb New Zealand,   a partner in the Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) programme with the Ministry for Primary Industries and DairyNZ, has posted an update on the eradication efforts.

It reports significant progress has been made in driving down the numbers of farms affected by M. bovis.

But farmers are advised:

Although we are on track to achieve eradication, there is still a lot of hard work ahead of us and we do expect to find more infected herds as the programme continues.

As at 16 September 2020:

  • There have been 251 confirmed properties to date with just one active confirmed property and the remaining cleared.
  • Of these, 135 confirmed properties have been beef, 61 dairy and 55 classified as others such as calf rearer, grazing, lifestyle and not known.
  • A key thing to remember is that almost all of these confirmed properties were from animals born on dairy farms. The dairy farmer-beef farmer relationship is a key one that helps drives both industries’ success but it’s critical that both farmers and intermediaries are extremely careful with their transactions and traceability.
  • There are currently 54 farms under notices of direction (movement controls when there’s a high risk that cattle on the farm may be infected).
  • There are currently 163 active surveillance properties (farms with a low risk of having been exposed to M. bovis are required to undergo testing to ensure that there is no infection in their cattle.
  • $174.6 million has been paid out in compensation.

The National Beef Cattle Surveillance programme covers screening of beef cattle not connected to the known network of infected properties, sampled at meat processing or in concert with TB testing.

About 58,000 animals, from over 2,400 farms, have had samples collected for testing and only six farms have required further on-farm investigation.

Results from the beef surveillance programme provide an important indication that the disease is not widespread in New Zealand’s beef cattle population.

More information about National Beef Cattle Surveillance programme can be found on the M. bovis website.

The August Bulk Tank Milk screening has been completed and – as anticipated for this time of year – has returned a number of ‘detect’ results.

Farmers should expect a rise in reported movement restrictions (NODs) as on-farm investigations to determine the infection status for these dairies get underway. Farms with detect results are contacted by Programme staff to work through next steps.

While it is difficult to predict how many new infected dairy farms will be identified through spring 2020 bulk tank milk screening, last year less than 3% were found to be infected.

Bulk tank milk screening plays an important role in looking for infection outside the tracing network. It will also play an important long-term role in gathering the evidence needed to declare freedom from M. bovis in New Zealand.

Beef and Lamb NZ is pleased that more farmers than ever are meeting their NAIT obligations to tag and register their animals and record movements on to and off their properties within 48 hours. NAIT  is an essential tool for the speedy tracing of animals and ultimately for protecting everybody’s farms and the wider industry.

Source:  Beef + Lamb New Zealand

How genome sequencing could help eliminate COVID-19 – and mycoplasma bovis (among other infectious diseases)

Genome sequencing — the mapping of the genetic sequences of an organism — has helped track the spread of COVID-19 cases in Auckland, but it also plays an important role in the control of other infectious diseases in New Zealand.

In an article published on Sciblogs (and originally published by The Conversation), Professor Nigel French cites Mycoplasma bovis, a global cattle disease which New Zealand also hopes to eliminate, as an example.

The disease was first detected on a South Island dairy farm in July 2017 and has subsequently been found on 250 properties across the country. It remains active on one farm.

Professor French writes: Continue reading

28 more dairy farms are found to require further M bovis investigations after milk tests

Bulk milk testing for Mycoplasma bovis this month has picked up 28 dairy farms requiring further investigation, RNZ reported today.

Figures from the Ministry for Primary Industries show just one farm is infected with the cattle disease at the moment.  Another 249 farms have been culled of their stock and declared safe to repopulate.

The Ministry’s chief science advisor, John Roche, said the 28 farms detected in this month’s national milk screening had been placed under restricted movement controls while more accurate testing was carried out. Continue reading