Further moves underway to contain cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis
The Ministry for Primary Industries is moving forward with control measures to prevent further spread of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis, with plans being developed with farmers to cull animals from the known infected farms.
"Since the start of this response in late July, we've carried out tens of thousands of tests of the infected, neighbouring and trace properties as well as district-wide testing in Waimate and Waitaki, and nationwide testing of bulk milk," says MPI's Director of Response, Geoff Gwyn.
"The only positive results for the disease have been on 7 infected properties, leading us to be cautiously optimistic that we are dealing with a localised area of infection around Oamaru," Mr Gwyn says.
"To prevent further spread of the disease, around 4,000 cattle on 5 of the 7 infected properties will need to be culled and a programme put in place to decontaminate the properties and then re-populate the farms. The 2 other properties have had a small number of animals culled already and no cattle remain.
"This whole operation is about managing the disease while keeping our future options open. We want to minimise the risk of further spread of the disease. Moving ahead with depopulation of the affected farms will allow them to get back to normal business as soon as it is safe to do so."
Currently there is no need to remove animals from other farms in the Van Leeuwen group that are under restrictions. Testing of animals on those farms continues and should infection be found, they will be subject to the same measures.
In the coming weeks MPI will be working closely with the animal industry bodies, the Rural Support Trust and others to support the affected farmers.
DairyNZ, Federated Farmers and Beef+Lamb New Zealand support the actions MPI is taking, while at the same time recognising that this is a difficult time for the farmers involved. The industry bodies believe the measures are necessary to protect New Zealand cattle farms against this disease. New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world where Mycoplasma bovis is not endemic, which is why the industry groups support such significant measures to keep it that way.
"The coming weeks will present new challenges and will be tough for these affected farmers. MPI will work with those affected to make the process as straight forward as possible. I'd like to particularly thank the owners, sharemilkers and farm workers involved for their ongoing support, recognising this is a very difficult time for them," Mr Gwyn says.
"I want to be very clear that this isn't something that's going to start tomorrow. This is a big logistical exercise, it needs to be thoroughly planned and co-ordinated and we will be doing it with the farmers who know their businesses best," Mr Gwyn says.
MPI anticipates the first stage of the process – removing the animals – will start after consultation with affected parties. Most of the cattle will be sent for slaughter in accordance with standard practice.
All premises, transportation vehicles and equipment involved in culling will follow a strict decontamination and disinfection protocol to mitigate the risk of spreading the disease.
Once depopulation is completed, there will be at least a 60 day stand-down period where no cattle will be permitted on the farms. During this time the infected properties will be cleaned and disinfected.
Following this work, the aim will be to get cattle back on the farms as quickly as possible. Surveillance, monitoring and testing will remain in place for a period as a further safeguard.
The affected farmers can apply for compensation for verifiable losses relating to MPI exercising legal powers under the Biosecurity Act.