South Canterbury rural consultant Sarah Barr says there is a huge degree of anxiety on the ground over the surge in the Mycoplasma bovis eradication effort.
According to the head of Biosecurity New Zealand, Roger Smith, the results obtained from the bulk milk tests will be a telling moment in knowing the spread and nature of the disease.
Smith last week met with the chief executives of DairyNZ and Beef + LambNZ and other industry reps to discuss how the eradication is tracking; so far there are no surprises with just three more herds confirmed as infected.
As of last week 59 farms are confirmed as having M. bovis and 37 more are ‘active’ (having more tests).
Smith is not surprised that more herds are confirmed as infected because they were seen as likely to be. But it’s the results of bulk milk tests that will give a much more accurate onfarm picture.
“We would know the results the day after the first test, but it is comprehensive testing so there are six rounds. The final results will be out in November but we will have the North Island results in early-mid October and the South Island results after that.
“The results will give us a good view of whether things have panned out the way we expected with just a few farms infected. But if we get a lot more infected farms or farms where we cannot trace back where the disease came from, that would raise questions for us.”
Smith says a ‘drop-dead’ point would be the sudden discovery of strains of M. bovis different from those so far found.
Everything is being examined and the team will set up ‘technical triggers’, essentially asking if the strategy of eradicating M. bovis is still feasible and acceptable to industry.
These things need to be done with the backing of industry, Smith says.
“The position has always been that this is being done for the industry and in the end if eradication is not the right thing for the industry then a decision would need to be made and that would be a decision of the Government,” he says.
No more apathy
Meanwhile a change of heart is seen about M. bovis among North Island farmers.
DairyNZ’s Andrew Reid says at one stage many North Island dairy farmers regarded the disease as a South Island problem, but he says this is no longer the case.
“The sense of apathy we might have found across the North Island this time last year towards M. bovis has disappeared. We are seeing a lot more interest in onfarm biosecurity across the country.
“Questions are being asked about the use of service bulls, about mating policies and trading stock, and a lot more due diligence is being done on farms to make sure stock being brought onto farms are free of M. bovis or whether they may have been exposed to the disease,” he says.
Reid says farmers are now more perceptive and aware of their responsibilities to look after their farms and themselves.