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


Recovery package unveiled for farmers getting back to business after Mycoplasma bovis

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor today set out a recovery package to help farmers get back to business more quickly after being cleared of Mycoplasma bovis.

The recovery package, rolled out by the Ministry for Primary Industries and response partners DairyNZ and Beef+LambNZ, includes:

  • DairyNZ and Beef+LambNZ Compensation Assistance Team
    • DairyNZ and Beef + LambNZ have put together a team of rural professionals who understand both farming and the compensation process who can sit down and work with farmers on their claims. The $400,000 cost is funded through the response.
  • Improved compensation form and guide
    • Set to be released this week, the simplified form will be easier to follow and the supporting guide will make clear what documents need to be submitted to ensure prompt payment of compensation claims.
  • Online milk production losses calculation tool
    • An online tool for farmers to easily estimate their milk production losses, to speed up compensation claims, will shortly be released.
  • Rural Support Trust boost
    • MPI has now completed training 80 Rural Support Trust members to provide crucial welfare support.
  • Regional Recovery Managers, in addition to the Acute Recovery Team
    • The Regional Centres in Invercargill, Oamaru, Ashburton and Hamilton will each have a regional recovery manager. They are being nominated and seconded by DairyNZ and Beef+LambNZ and will help farmers develop a tailor-made recovery plan.

Ms Ardern and Mr O’Connor made the announcement on Bryce and Julie Stevenson’s beef farm in Wairarapa as the couple restock after eradicating Mycoplasma bovis.

Mr O’Connor said the response is making good progress in its world-first eradication attempt.

It was important to remember that confirmation of newly identified properties did not mean the disease was spreading, he said.

“It means we are tracing historically infected cattle and milk movements, many of which occurred before the disease had been discovered.

“Working closely with our farming industry partners, the Government remains confident eradication is on-track and we have a good chance of success. I thank all farmers who have helped get us to this point,” Damien O’Connor said.

Of New Zealand’s 24,000 farms, 74 have been infected to date with 36 subsequently destocked and cleared of Mycoplasma bovis.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

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

Science group to help Mycoplasma bovis eradication efforts

A science advisory group has been formed to strengthen efforts to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis).

Members of the M. bovis Strategic Science Advisory Group will provide strategic scientific advice to the Mycoplasma bovis Governance Group.

Announcing the group’s formation today, the Ministry for Primary Industries says science continues to be critical to the M. bovis response and the advisory group will be a valuable resource to enable current science activities to be scaled up and expanded.

“The advisory group will ensure we have on-going access to some of the best minds and knowledge relating to M. bovis, which will bolster the eradication effort,” says Roger Smith, head of Biosecurity New Zealand and chair of the Mycoplasma bovis Governance Group.

The advisory group will contribute expertise on a range of science matters, including:

  • identifying any critical knowledge gaps and ways to address them, including considering emerging technologies and ideas that may help eradicate M. bovis;
  • prioritisation of M. bovis research efforts;
  • coordination of current and future science initiatives relating to M. bovis;
  • learning from other research programmes in New Zealand and internationally;
  • providing assurance that M. bovis eradication research efforts remain fit for purpose.

Members of the advisory group understand this is an unsettling time for many farmers and are moving quickly, says Dr John Roche, the group’s chair and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ departmental science adviser.

“The group has already identified some key priorities for immediate work, and will hold a workshop in September to get wider input into developing the broader science plan,” says Dr Roche.

Advisory group members –

John Roche – departmental science adviser, MPI (chair).

Glenn Browning – professor, director, Asia-Pacific Centre for Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne, Australia.

Hamish Gow – professor of agribusiness, Massey University.

Nigel French – distinguished professor, executive director of the Infectious Disease Research Centre, Massey University.

Axel Heiser – senior scientist, immunology, AgResearch.

William McMillan – independent agri-business consultant and scientist;

Kaiārahi Ahuwhenua – Federation of Māori Authorities.

Trish McIntosh – director, North Canterbury Vets.

Roger Ayling – private consultant with extensive M. bovis research experience, United Kingdom.

Cameron Stewart – research scientist, Disease Prevention and Detection, CSIRO.

James Turner – resource economist and senior social scientist, AgResearch.

Shaun Hendy – director, Te Pūnaha Matatini, University of Auckland, complex systems, networks, and mathematical modelling.

Prue Williams – general manager Science System Investment and Performance, MBIE.

Veronica Herrera – director, Diagnostics and Surveillance Services, MPI.

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries

Why NZ must try to eradicate M. bovis despite the cost

Richard Laven, an associate professor at Massey University and veterinarian with an interest in production animal health and welfare,  has expressed support for the Government’s decision to attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis.  

A phased eradication means that an additional 126,000 livestock will need to be culled, at an estimated cost of NZ$886 million.

Eradication may prove to be impossible, Dr Laven writes in a post featured on Sciblogs – but the attempt should be made.

His article, originally published on The Conversation, discusses what we know, what we don’t know and what’s at stake.

How do we know this is a new incursion?

M. bovis causes mastitis and arthritis in adult cattle and pneumonia in calves. It is found around the world, but New Zealand was one of the last disease-free countries until the detection of infected cows on a dairy farm in July 2017.

We can’t be sure that M. bovis didn’t arrive in New Zealand before the current outbreak, but the Ministry of Primary Industries has tested for the disease over the years and not found it. This has involved checking animals with symptoms similar to those caused by M. bovis as well as large-scale testing of bulk tank milk in 2007.

In addition, all countries with M. bovis – including Australia, where less than 4% of dairy herds are affected – have had outbreaks of untreatable mastitis and arthritis due to M. bovis. No such outbreaks were recorded in New Zealand until July 2017.

In Australia, the disease was first reported in the 1970s, but it was not until 2006 that it was seen in the main dairying areas of New South Wales and Victoria where it caused outbreaks of mastitis. It is difficult to prove a negative and we certainly don’t have enough data to show it was definitively not in New Zealand before 2015. But the history of the disease in Australia shows that it can be detected even if it is rare.

Furthermore, the evidence so far from the investigation of the outbreak has been that all the infected farms can be traced back to cattle movements. If the disease had been here before, then tracing would likely have identified clusters of farms with no connections.

Is eradication feasible?

We do not currently know how the disease came into New Zealand. The only likely route, via imports of infected cattle, has been ruled out because live cattle imports ceased before 2015. In any case, live cattle imports have only come from Australia and the strain of bacteria in New Zealand is not the Australian one. Semen, embryos and illegal imports of veterinary products such as vaccines remain the most likely source, but all of these are very low risk. Although M. bovis can survive in these products, the chance of them being infected and that infection spreading to cattle is very low.

Without knowing where the disease came from, we cannot prevent it happening again. However, the risk of semen or embryos bringing in disease hasn’t changed in the last 20 years, so if it did indeed arrive via this route, it was simply bad luck.

So even if – after eradication – we did nothing to change the way semen, embryos or vaccine imports are regulated, it is possible that New Zealand would still remain free of M. bovis.

How can we get rid of M. bovis?

Authorities will use a systematic process of testing to identify infected herds. The biggest component will be testing the bulk tank milk of all dairy herds in the country. Tracing from infected herds will help to identify more infected herds and more traces. This is effectively a continuation of the current process with the aim of eliminating the disease.

The key problem with eradication is that currently the whole herd needs to be culled if one animal is infected because infection can only be detected at the herd level. This comes with significant cost and negative impact on affected farmers.

However, culling entire herds doesn’t necessarily influence the chances of a successful eradication process. The main issue is that we currently do not know exactly how many infected cattle or infected farms there are. It is going to take time to identify all the infected farms and it is possible that the number is much higher than the models suggest. This could make eradication impossible.

Tracing animal movements between farms is another key issue, and the lack of accurate recording is hindering our response to the outbreak. For an eradication to be successful, farmers have to get better at keeping track of where animals are moved.

The ConversationThe decision to eradicate the disease is based on science, but it is not a scientific decision alone. Rightly, it is a political call, with the decisions being taken by the government with support from the industry. Eradication may prove to be impossible, but that does not mean we shouldn’t try. It just means that, unfortunately, the disease had spread far more widely than our current models suggest.

The original article can be read  HERE. 

Source: Sciblogs

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  

New initiatives to support M.bovis response

Minister for Biosecurity Damien O’Connor has unveiled a set of initiatives to support the Mycoplasma bovis response and improve farm biosecurity practices based on feedback from farmers and rural communities.

Big numbers of farmers have been attending the Mycoplasma bovis roadshow meetings, Mr O’Connor said.  They have been interested in the response and in the changes that could be made to help them manage their on-farm biosecurity.

“We have been listening to them and the Ministry for Primary Industries is making a number of changes that can be implemented quickly, without legislation,” he said.

Some farmers have expressed frustration at not being formally told when a neighbour’s farm is identified as an Infected Property.

The Ministry for Primary Industries will start directly informing neighbouring farms of Infected Properties or high-risk properties, enabling farmers to take appropriate steps to improve their on-farm biosecurity and reduce the risk to their own stock.

The aim has been to take a measured step that balances individual privacy concerns with the need for farmers to protect their own farms.

The ministry will also publish a list of the NAIT numbers of all affected animals on its website. This includes all animals associated with or traced from an Infected Property.

 “This will give farmers better information to make informed decisions when purchasing new stock,” Mr O’Connor said.

The ministry will do more, too, to ensure enforcement of the Animal Status Declaration (ASD) form. It is a legal requirement that this form must accompany a consignment of cattle when a stock sale takes place.

Regulatory and legislative changes being considered include:

  • Amending the Animal Products Act to add a new infringement offence for failing to use the ASD form correctly
  • Amending the NAIT Act to bring its search powers in line with the Search and Surveillance Act
  • New regulation to control the use of discarded milk

Mr O’Connor said he was continuing to listen to feedback from farmers and will work with the ministry and industry groups to consider further changes to support strengthened biosecurity practices and compliance in  rural communities.

Source: Minister for Biosecurity