A small, Auckland research firm is developing a more sensitive test for Mycoplasma bovis.
Biosecurity New Zealand’s director of response, Geoff Gwyn, a veteran of 70 such meetings, told 500 farmers and industry people, “If you’re looking for certainty I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed”.
Gwyn said MPI was doing all it could with 300 staff making progress. Last month 136 properties were under a notice of direction.
Seventy properties had had restricted place notices since the disease was identified in July 2017, meaning no movement of stock on or off the site. Of these, 15 had since had that status revoked and the disease had been confirmed on 36 properties. Culling of 24,500 cattle had gone ahead on 27 of those farms. Eight such properties had since July 2017 had the status revoked as they now met the 90-day non-stocking period.
The meeting included an expert panel that defined good biosecurity practice, e.g. restricting access points to the farm and providing disinfectant footbaths for visitors.
Audience questions centred on the practicality of biosecurity, movement of stock trucks and contractors’ plant, compensation and the reworking of the NAIT scheme.
A MPI veterinarian emphasised the need to clean trucks, plant and machinery before disinfecting them, and advised the audience to look for signs of mastitis especially at calving and early lactation when animals are highly stressed. Another round of bulk milk testing will be done in the spring.
The audience heard that the most likely disease incursion points had been seen as semen, embryos, vaccines, animal feed, machinery and live-animal imports from Australia. But DNA testing has discounted the live-import possibility and indicates that the disease is a strain seen in North America and Europe, not that seen in Australia.
In a discussion on calf rearing, untreated milk or colostrum was cited as the second most-likely risk of infection, after animal-to-animal contact. Hence a recommendation to get milk pasteurised or treated with citric acid.
Also on calves, farmers were advised to have bobby or slink animals collected from a designated ‘red zone onfarm, possibly inside the tanker loop.
Farmers were told to find out where lease bulls come from, isolate them on arrival and discover the pedigree of the supplier rather than the animal.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor told the meeting, “We have one chance, so let’s take it”. The incursion is a wake-up call for everyone and all should embrace NAIT so that it works as intended, he said.
Modelling suggested infection on about 190 of the 20,000 properties in NZ, costing about $880 million in compensation -- 68% from the government and 32% from farmer levies.