Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor today made a ministerial statement on the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in Parliament, to update the House on significant steps taken in recent days to control the spread of the cattle disease.
He said the disease, first discovered in July last year, has an impact on the health of cattle, including high mortality among calves, mastitis, high rates of abortions, and reduced milk production.
“It is a drag on the incomes of farming households, rural communities, and the national economy. I’ve been working hard with officials, industry leaders, and farmers on the ground to take actions to limit the outbreaks impact.”
As reported by AgScience (here, here and here), the Ministry for Primary industries is to cull 22,332 cattle on all properties infected with the disease – the single biggest cull of cattle in New Zealand’s history.
This follows the introduction of a checkpoint at the top of the South Island for trucks carrying cattle north, which will prevent animals moving from infected and restricted properties.
Mr O’Connor explained the decision to cull cattle now had been taken because milk testing showed Mycoplasma bovis is not endemic in the national herd.
“All our finds to date stem from two farming hubs.
“I note that the industry has backed the Government’s decision and decisive actions in recent days, saying that these steps will allow farmers to plan for the future. These latest actions will be paid for by $85 million that Cabinet and industry groups dedicated to the response earlier this month.”
Tracing the disease had been a massive undertaking, because of the the poor use and application of the national animal identification and tracing system (NAIT). A review of the tracing system found just 57 percent of those farmers recording their animal movements do so within the 48-hour statutory time frame and it’s estimated that only 30 percent of farm-to-farm animal movements are recorded.
“Unrecorded stock movements are a significant reason for the spread of Mycoplasma bovis and have slowed our tracking of the disease. That is simply not good enough. We will work with farmers to fix NAIT’s problems and to protect our economy from future biosecurity threats.”
Officials continue to investigate how the disease entered New Zealand.
Mr O’Connor said eradication is still the Government’s focus, but it will come with a price tag and a lot of hard work and cooperation between everyone involved.
Former Biosecurity Minister Nathan Guy, responding to the ministerial statement, noted Cabinet had still to decide if full eradication will take place and if it is economically viable.
“That is a “get out of jail” card for the coalition Government,” Mr Guy said.
“Yes, they have made a commitment yesterday to cull 22 herds, but we want to see this continue. I guess they’re waiting to see some further evidence that may pop up when animals are indeed under stress.”
He challenged the coalition Government to be fair with its compensation and make it fast.