Tuesday, 20 February 2024 11:55

Good farm records helping keep M. bovis at bay

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Very good records on cattle movements helped MPI tackle Mycoplasma bovis. Very good records on cattle movements helped MPI tackle Mycoplasma bovis.

Good records on cattle movement have helped the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) clear another farm impacted by Mycoplasma bovis.

This was done without having to depopulate the whole herd. According to MPI's latest update, of the 282 properties confirmed with M. bovis, all but one, in the South Island, have been cleared.

It says the number of active confirmed properties has decreased by one: very good records on cattle movements helped MPI, it says.

"In many cases, especially in the initial years of the eradication effort, the M. bovis Programme had been established for some time. Now, we are in the tail of the epidemic curve with significant background and network surveillance under way," MPI says.

"We are finding infection earlier than before and the investigation into this farm indicate M. bovis had been introduced recently and was identified before it spread to all groups of cattle on the farm.

"The completeness of the records, combined with the early detection of the infection, two rounds of negative results rom on-farm testing of the dairy herd, and the regular non-detect results being received from the background Bulk Tank Milk screening programme has enabled the Programme to avoid the need to depopulate the whole herd."

The remaining cattle on the cleared property will continue to be subject to on-farm testing over the next few weeks, as it is a neighbour of the remaining active confirmed property. The dairy herd, like others nationwide, will also continue to be screened as part of the bulk tank milk background surveillance.

MPI says if any risk of infection becomes apparent, the programme will take steps to contain it, as with any other farm.

"This outcome is not always possible, and the standard of the available records played a key role. Not only was the infection confirmed to be isolated to the management group, but the high quality of the animal movement records also reduced the need for manual tracing, which can be time intensive.

"In contrast, cases with poor records require a more cautious approach to be taken, with a higher impact and disruption to farmers. At best, this means testing more farms than would otherwise be necessary, and at worst, infection spreads unchecked resulting in increased disruption and stress for farmers, delays in reaching eradication and significant increase in time and cost."

MPI says that it's important that farmers recognise M. bovis still poses a risk and that they play a critical role in supporting the eradication effort. The best thing farmers can do to protect the progress made is to ensure good NAIT records are maintained along with other records about movements of cattle within the property, it says.

"New Zealand cattle farming is unique with a high number of animal movements. In a single day, there can be thousands of cattle movements between properties. As the highest risk of M. bovis spread between farms is from the movement of infected animals, we rely on farm records and the NAIT system to help us to identify where the disease may have spread to, and where it came from."

To complement the tracing work undertaken, the Bulk Tank Milk and Beef and Drystock National Surveillance screening programmes are continuing to run in the background each day. These give us crucial information about the presence of M. bovis in New Zealand and will continue for several years.

Farmers play a critical role in building useful animal traceability, says MPI.

Fulfilling Obligations

NAIT data is continuing to improve, indicating more farmers are fulfilling their obligations. Keeping accurate NAIT records means fulfilling 5 key obligations under the NAIT Act:

  • Registering as a Person in Charge of Animals (PICA): If you are the main person in day-to-day charge of NAIT animals you must register as a PICA in the NAIT Information System.
  • Registering your NAIT location: If you have NAIT animals on a property you manage you must register the location in the NAIT Information System.
  • Tagging and registering your animals: You must apply NAIT ear tags to your NAIT animals within 180 days of birth, or before the animals are moved to a different location, whichever comes first.
  • Recording animal movements: If you are sending from, or receiving animals to, your NAIT location you must record the movement with 48 hours.
  • Keep NAIT up to date: Declare any animals that are missing or dead in the NAIT Information System and keep your NAIT information up to date.

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