High-profile South Canterbury dairy farmers Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen have put a number of their farms up for sale.
That’s the belief of Oamaru veterinarian and Angus beef breeder Neil Sanderson.
“I’ve got people who are pretty convinced they’ve had similar outbreaks, or similar incidences of untreatable mastitis with high mortality, quite a long time before 2015,” he told Rural News.
“But MPI is very reluctant to entertain any of that, unfortunately, which I think is quite disappointing.
“Because if it was found to be in the country much before the MPI contention of a 2015 incursion, then this eradication programme would likely be a waste of time.”
Sanderson believes legitimately imported germplasm – imported embryos or semen – could be a likely entry mechanism and is sceptical about the veterinary medicine pathway.
“Back in 2007-18, an EU audit of the NZ germplasm industry played merry hell with NZ’s germplasm trade into Europe, stopping it for several years,” Sanderson claims.
However, he believes the EU’s concern at the time was more about trade than biosecurity. He says he and others had warned MPI and the then Minister of Agriculture, David Carter, that the greater risk was to NZ importing European germplasm rather than the other way around.
“I know that for importing semen and embryos [from the EU] the donor animals did not have to be tested for Mycoplasma bovis,” Sanderson says.
“There are processes for handling the embryos that were thought to remove any risk of M.bovis, but I think when you read the research that’s been done, you can’t absolutely rule it out.”
The disease appeared in NZ mainly in Holsteins. Sanderson says he had not heard of any Jersey herd or any beef herd infected, which also points to a germplasm source.
He warns that in the upcoming mating season beef and dairy farmers must be vigilant about sourcing service bulls from traceable sources and avoid buying bulls from saleyards and non-verifiable trading enterprises.