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Animal transport across Cook Strait may halt if cattle disease not widespread


Ministry for Primary Industries incident controller David Yard addresses farmers at a meeting on Mycoplasma bovis in New Plymouth. Stock movements across Cook Strait could be stopped if nationwide milk testing finds Mycoplasma bovis is not widespread in the North Island. At a meeting with Taranaki farmers in New Plymouth, Ministry for Primary Industries incident controller David Yard said the government remained focused on wiping out the cattle disease.

“Although the rest of the world has learned to live with the disease, the government is hell bent on eradication if possible,” Yard said.

Animal transport across Cook Strait may halt if cattle disease not widespreadGRANT MATTHEW/STUFF

Hundreds of farmers attended the meeting, one of four held around Taranaki last week. “If the government choose to walk away and say we can’t eradicate this disease, it means farmers will have to learn to live with it as it spreads across the country and it will affect your bottom line. READ MORE:
* Minister still targeting M bovis eradication
* NAIT’s role in M Bovis spread unclear: Federated Farmers
* To eradicate or long term manage M bovis disease depends on tests – Minister[1][2][3]

“Eradication is our chosen option but there is a caveat based on the information we have available.” Since the initial discovery of M. bovis on a South Canterbury farm in July, the bacterial disease has been detected on 23 properties – 14 farms in Canterbury, seven in Southland, one in Otago and one in Hawke’s Bay. The nationwide milk testing programme now underway would be used to identify any other clusters, Yard said.

“If we found from this survey that we’ve got clusters right across the country, it may be that we have to make the difficult decision to say “Look, I’m sorry, enough’s enough, we really tried but this disease is beyond our ability to eradicate” and we’ll work up plans to learn how to live with it on a long-term basis.” Asked why stock were still being transported north across Cook Strait, Yard said with M. bovis already identified in the North Island, the decision to stop stock movements would be influenced by the results of the milk testing programme. “If we do find we’ve got more clusters in the north, clearly it’s not feasible.

If it isn’t found elsewhere, that would be something we would be considering.” If stock movements were stopped, the consequences for the dairy industry would be huge, he said. “Because it is such a significant decision, we’re waiting to see what the level of infection is in the North Island.

If it demonstrates that the North Island is virtually free, or indeed free if we get the Napier property taken care of, it’s certainly something we’re considering but we haven’t implemented yet.” DairyNZ technical policy adviser (veterinary) Nita Harding said discussions were underway with the Road Transport Association about what could be done to reduce the risk associated with transport of animals. “As far as I’m aware, there is no plan in place for washing trucks apart from truck companies and their routine cleaning programmes for trucks.”

Yard said farmers had a huge part to play in identifying potentially infected properties and stopping the disease’s spread. “The biggest risk of spread is through movement of animals and if we do identify an infected farm, the first thing we’re going to ask is how it arrived and more importantly, who that farmer has sold cows to,” he said. “Those animals may have inadvertently moved infection to other farms and tracing them should be a really simple process.

We should go to the NAIT records, push a few buttons and we should find out how many cows have moved on and where they’ve moved to.” However, the number of farmers who were 100 per cent compliant when it came to NAIT was somewhere between 1 and 5 per cent, Yard said. “If we are going to effectively manage this disease, the only way we’re going to do it is by identifying infected farms.

Of the 23 infected farms, 22 were found that way so it’s really important.”

– Stuff


  1. ^ Minister still targeting M bovis eradication (www.stuff.co.nz)
  2. ^ NAIT’s role in M Bovis spread unclear: Federated Farmers (www.stuff.co.nz)
  3. ^ To eradicate or long term manage M bovis disease depends on tests – Minister (www.stuff.co.nz)

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