OPINION: More than three years on, Mycoplasma bovis continues to cast a shadow over some farms.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor claims the disease, which was first detected in NZ three years ago, has just four active cases – down from the 250 properties that were affected by M. bovis at its peak.
“Key to the success have been our programme partners DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand. They were part of the bold decision to attempt to eradicate this disease and have been part of our efforts since the very beginning,” he says.
“It was estimated that allowing the disease to spread could cause $1.3 billion in economic losses in the first 10 years alone, along with substantial animal welfare issues and serious ongoing challenges for farmers having to manage the disease within their herds.”
O’Connor believes one key measure of the success of the 10-year eradication plan is the Estimated Dissemination Rate (EDR). He says if the EDR is greater than one, then the disease is growing, but if it’s below one, the disease is shrinking.
“The EDR is now at 0.4, which is down from over 2 at the start of the outbreak, so we are looking harder to find fewer infected animals.”
O’Connor says NZ has been able to do what other countries have not in terms of disease eradication efforts.
“That’s something our farming community should be really proud of.”
He says allowing the disease to spread would have caused lost productivity in our cattle sector and affected the whole economy.
O’Connor concedes the eradication effort has not been without substantial challenges and the impact on affected farmers shouldn’t be under-estimated.
“Farmers deserve a lot of credit for their efforts. We are continuing to improve processes and work hard to support their wellbeing and recovery, including getting their compensation claims paid as quickly as possible.
“There is still work to be done, and there will be more infected farms to find – but we’re well and truly on track to do what no other country in the world has done and eradicate this disease.”
O’Connor says the next 12 months is about ensuring that all infected herds are found.
“This will involve ongoing Bulk Tank Milk Surveillance, nation-wide beef surveillance, and on-farm testing of herds that could possibly have been exposed, to ensure that they are not infected.”