Ministry for Primary Industries chief science adviser, Dr John Roche on the indications New Zealand is winning the fight against Mycoplasma bovis.
CSS, a subsidiary of the American National Association of Animal Breeders (NAAB), provides an objective auditing service for semen. Its processing protocols include freezing the semen and using a protective cocktail of antibiotics in extended semen.
In a recent statement CSS says it sympathises with the plight of NZ’s dairy producers.
It notes that the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) does not list M. bovis nor does it recommend testing for it in either the semen or donor bulls for safe international trade.
“Nonetheless, using thorough research and testing methods, CSS instituted semen processing requirements that are effective in controlling M. bovis (and other specified potential semen borne microbes) in each breeding unit of semen.
“Over the last 35 years the track record shows there have been no reports of M. bovis being cultured from frozen semen processed according to these CSS minimum requirements. This historical testament to safety should give NZ’s dairy producers complete confidence in using CSS Health Certified Semen in their herds.”
Hank Lina, the general manager of World Wide Sires NZ, whose parent body Select Sires is a NAAB member, welcomed the reassurance, saying it provided an objective science-based perspective which farmers could trust.
“In contrast with NZ, where genetics companies apply their own standards to the collection and processing of bovine semen, the US has an autonomous scientific body which provides an objective auditing service for semen and sire health and identification,” he said.
“Until now, many of the messages about the safety of product have been driven by commercial imperatives. This reassurance, from an autonomous science-based organisation, provides the level of objectivity and reassurance that farmers need as they consider the upcoming dairy breeding season.”
While LIC has recently assured farmers that its bulls are free of M. bovis and has disputed claims that frozen semen is safer, Lina said the risk from properly prepared frozen semen was “virtually none”.
“Maybe we need to eliminate bulls and go all artificial breeding as safest because I still think frozen semen is much, much safer than anything else.”
Lina said his biggest concern now is that farmers need to get at least five million cows in calf in a few months.
“I’d like to think we could all get these cows pregnant without farmers compromising their level of genetics, because that will cost the industry more than M. bovis will.”
Lina recently returned from a trip with some of his staff to the parent company in the US, where he found that M. bovis was not an issue for American farmers.
He called it “a nuisance disease,” and said there is “not a country in the world where the economy has suffered because of it”.
World Wide Sires NZ imports 95% of its stock from the US. It does not itself harvest in NZ but occasionally buys from breeding services which also use CSS protocols.
“The US produces over 50 million straws a year and it’s all CSS protocol-certified and there’s never been a known case of M. bovis being cultured. So even if you had one case in 50 million, I think the odds of not getting anything are better than using semen that has had no processing whatsoever,” said Lina.
Cees van Baar, managing director of Samen, said AB companies were still “a little bit in limbo” awaiting guidelines from MPI on how they are to handle the coming breeding season.
However, he said all the semen Samen harvests in NZ is produced to the CSS protocols, with freezing and antibiotics.
“That is regarded as the safest method of using semen, whether it is imported or locally produced.”
Since last season he has also voluntarily asked all his overseas semen suppliers to carry out pcr tests for M. bovis on every batch.