MAF examines disease risks from cattle imports

1 December 1998

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has begun a two year project to examine the potential disease risks posed by the importation of cattle, cattle embryos and semen to insure that import conditions are appropriate to protect New Zealand livestock.

Dr Barry O'Neil, MAF's Chief Veterinary Officer, announced that his staff will conduct a formal qualitative risk analysis commencing in January 1999. The risk analysis team will be lead by Dr Stuart MacDiarmid and the main risk analyst will be Dr Joanne Thompson of MAF's Regulatory Authority.

Dr O'Neil has written to over fifty industry organisations with an interest in cattle and their products explaining the process to be used and the diseases to be considered.

An import risk analysis involves assessing and effectively managing disease risks associated with the importation of live animals and genetic material. Dr MacDiarmid said that steps in the risk analysis process comprise hazard identification (What can go wrong?), risk assessment (How likely is it to go wrong, and how serious would it be if it does?), risk management (What can be done to reduce any risk to an acceptable level?) and risk communication (consulting with stakeholders, listening to their concerns, and addressing those concerns).

Dr MacDiarmid said that the preliminary hazard identification process had noted over forty diseases which could potentially be associated with imported cattle.

A number of the industry organisations contacted by Dr O'Neil responded positively to the proposed risk analysis. Federated Farmers considered the proposed list of diseases was complete and could identify no omissions, a view shared by the Hostein-Friesian Association.

MAF plans to complete the risk analysis by December 1999, with the results being published in the January 2000 issue of the magazine Biosecurity.

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