Advice to farmers and livestock owners about foot-and-mouth disease
Farmers have an important role to play in keeping foot-and-mouth disease out of New Zealand. You should have a basic on-farm biosecurity plan and know what to do if you suspect an outbreak of the disease.
On this page:
- Protect your farm from disease
- Keep online details up-to-date
- Look out for foot-and-mouth disease
- Report suspected cases of foot-and-mouth disease
- Prepare for an investigating vet
- When an investigating vet is on your property
- Keep information confidential
- If an outbreak is confirmed
- Who to contact
Protecting your farm from FMD helps protect it from other diseases as well. Talk to your industry organisation and check their websites for biosecurity advice.
- Federated Farmers website
- DairyNZ website
- On-farm biosecurity guide – Beef + Lamb New Zealand
- On-farm biosecurity guide – Deer Industry New Zealand
- New Zealand Pork website
Make sure you:
- purchase stock from reputable suppliers
- keep a simple on-farm biosecurity plan handy and update it regularly
- consider vaccines for local diseases
- have easily identified farm animals (tagged or marked)
- minimise contact between your stock and other animals (for example, on neighbouring properties)
- record new stock entering the farm
- quarantine new stock away from existing stock until you're sure they are healthy – at least for one week but preferably two
- check feed labels to make sure they are suitable for the stock
- manage the potential contamination of people, vehicles and equipment entering and moving throughout the farm. For example, ask visitors to clean their footwear before walking around the farm and as they leave
- follow routine best practice biosecurity measures such as disinfecting farm equipment and maintaining intact boundary fences where possible
- consider developing a detailed farm health plan with your vet.
- feed ruminant protein to ruminants (such as cattle, sheep, lambs, goats, deer, alpacas and llamas)
- feed pigs food that could contain (or have contacted) meat, unless it has been cooked for 1 hour at 100 degrees Celsius
- let overseas visitors near stock for a week after they were last near animals or infected places overseas
- let overseas visitors bring contaminated shoes or clothes onto your farm.
Register with MPI's FarmsOnLine database, so we're able to contact you if an outbreak occurs. If you're already registered, make sure your contact information is up-to-date either on the FarmsOnLine website or by calling 0800 43 65 69.
If you're a cattle or deer farmer, you must register with the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme. Make sure you record all livestock movements as soon as possible after movement. This information would help us manage an outbreak of FMD.
Look for signs of FMD (and other exotic diseases) in your stock as part of good on-farm biosecurity practice.
Contact your vet or MPI's exotic pest and disease hotline if your animals:
- have a high fever
- have mouth and feet blisters or erosions
- become lame
- have FMD symptoms and you suspect a link to overseas visitors or imports to your farm.
Call your veterinarian or MPI's exotic pest and disease hotline (0800 80 99 66) if you suspect foot-and-mouth disease. The sooner cases are identified, the faster we can control an outbreak.
What to tell your vet or the pest and disease hotline
- Describe the symptoms you've noticed.
- Say what types of animals are affected, and roughly how many.
If you're calling the hotline, try to provide background information, such as:
- property details (preferably an address and phone number)
- types and numbers of animals on the property
- recent movement of animals on and off the property
- if the property has a biosecurity plan to keep animal diseases from spreading to other farms.
Don't be afraid to make a report
It's natural to worry about what will happen after calling. MPI deals with about 10 call-outs a year for suspected FMD. So far, all of these have turned out to be negative. But we need to be prepared and keep reporting any suspected disease.
Remember – if FMD is confirmed, a trained manager will be assigned to the property to help deal with the outbreak. Compensation is also available to help cover associated costs.
After you make a report
Within 30 minutes of making a report to the MPI hotline, an MPI vet will call you back. If they agree the symptoms sound like FMD, they'll send a local vet (the initial investigating vet) to check.
- Comply with any instructions from the MPI vet that called you about your report.
- Muster affected animals into isolation yards, where the investigating vet can examine them.
- Close all gates to your property and restrict movement of people, vehicles and animals.
- Move your animals away from boundary fences to avoid contact with neighbouring livestock.
- Write down livestock and vehicle movements that you can remember from the past 3 weeks.
- Make sure Animal Status Declaration (ASD) forms (or other animal movement forms) are available.
- Stay on the farm.
Keep a diary
Your records would help an outbreak investigation and could be important if you need to make a compensation claim. Write down all relevant farm activities, including:
- instructions given by MPI
- actions taken
- animals and vehicles that came onto your farm in the past 3 weeks.
- Ask the vet to give you information in writing (for your records).
- Keep farm gates closed and restrict movement of people, vehicles and animals.
- Cooperate with the vet and MPI staff.
- Comply with any Restricted Place notice (a notice restricting movement of livestock, vehicles and other high-risk products on and off the property).
If the vet rules out FMD, the investigation will end, and you'll be thanked for your actions and awareness. New Zealand relies on farmers and vets reporting cases of suspected exotic disease.
However, if the investigating vet has any doubts, they will call for an MPI vet (an incursion investigator) to visit the property.
When an MPI vet is on your property
If an MPI vet is called to your property to investigate the report further, they may:
- take samples from animals for analysis at MPI's Animal Health Laboratory
- place restrictions on your property until the diagnosis is either confirmed or ruled out
- let you know when to expect a final decision.
What you can do:
- Ask the MPI vet to give you information in writing (for your records).
- Continue to record relevant information in a diary.
- Stop all traffic and stock moving to and from your farm.
- Tell the vet about vehicle and stock movement to and from your farm over the past 3 weeks.
- Cooperate with a Restricted Place Management Plan (and any Controlled Area Notices) put in place for your farm. MPI staff will provide information about these.
It is important that information about a potential FMD case is correct and coordinated to ensure our trade in animal products and our national economy are protected.
Treat all information as confidential until FMD has been either confirmed or ruled out. If you are approached by the media, refer any questions to MPI. FMD would have major consequences for our international markets and even the suspicion of a case would have unhelpful effects. All cases we have investigated so far haven't been FMD.
It also pays to avoid making comment on your situation to people outside of the family and farm, and don't share information on social media. This is another way that misinformation can be picked up and lead to potential impacts on our international trade.
If an FMD outbreak is confirmed, a nationwide biosecurity emergency will be declared. Movement of cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, alpaca and llama, and their genetic material will be banned nationwide under a National Livestock Standstill. The standstill (declared through a Controlled Area Notice) will last for 2 weeks or more. It will stay in place until all cases of the disease have been detected and the extent of the outbreak is known.
The standstill would be needed to stop further spread while we work out how widespread the disease is. The first case of FMD found, won't necessarily be the first in New Zealand – the disease may come from another infected property.
Comply with controlled area restrictions
If FMD is confirmed on your farm, it will become a Restricted Place. MPI will issue Controlled Area Notices that prohibit movement of stock and risk goods like meat, milk, hides and wool.
There would be rules around:
- movement of people and animals
- biosecurity and hygiene
- destruction and disposal of infected animals (where necessary).
Areas around the infected property would become high-risk areas. People in these areas would have to comply with Controlled Area Notices.
Livestock in transit when an outbreak is announced
In most cases, livestock would be delivered to their final destination, but there would be exceptions.
Safe to work with infected animals
Foot-and-mouth virus is an animal health disease and is not considered a significant risk to human health. Infection in humans is extremely rare with only minor symptoms.
Financial compensation would be available for losses directly attributable to control measures put in place for FMD. If an outbreak occurred, you would be able to claim for:
- livestock that's been slaughtered
- property that's been damaged or destroyed.
To be eligible:
- losses must be directly attributable to the exercise of powers under the Biosecurity Act 1993 – and you must have complied with all the Act's requirements
- losses must be verifiable using documentation
- you must show you have taken reasonable precautions to prevent your stock being infected.
Find out about FMD compensation claims [PDF, 182 KB]
If you think you've seen a case of FMD, call your local vet immediately – they will contact MPI's pest and disease hotline. If a vet isn't available, contact our hotline directly on 0800 80 99 66.