A commercial diagnostic tool, which will allow farmers to test for cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis themselves, is being developed by a partnership comprising commercial laboratories, industry representatives and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
The tool will be released once sampling guidelines, a testing strategy, and possibly an accreditation programme have been developed – to ensure the test can be accurately applied and interpreted.
MPI response director Geoff Gwyn said since the discovery of Mycoplasma bovis in New Zealand last year, the partnership had been working hard to provide practitioners and farmers with better diagnostic tests to assist in detecting the cattle disease on their farms.
"However, while testing options and solutions are becoming available, we have identified that interpreting a one-off test result, even at the herd level, in isolation to other factors, is challenging and carries an inherent risk for farmers when in isolation to other factors. The tests currently available will lead to a significant number of farms being falsely identified as positive and farms that may be real positives being missed.
"That's why we are developing robust processes, including a testing strategy and sampling guidelines, which may form part of an accreditation programme."
The partnership behind the test programme includes representatives from NZ Veterinary Association (NZVA), Beef + Lamb NZ, DairyNZ, Dairy Companies Association of NZ, Federated Farmers, AsureQuality, MilkTest NZ, Livestock Improvement Corporation, New Zealand Veterinary Pathology, SVS Laboratories, and Gribbles Veterinary Pathology.
The NZVA chief veterinary officer, Helen Beattie said the partnership was focused on helping farmers who were dealing with the many uncertainties around the disease.
"All parties in this partnership are acutely aware of the need for a robust on-farm solution for farmers who are concerned about Mycoplasma bovis. All parties are working urgently on developing this tool, and all the elements needed to support it."
Any accreditation programme will likely not only consider test result, but also factors such as herd management, animal health, and record keeping (including NAIT records) – all of which will be used to inform farmers of the likely risk of Mycoplasma bovis in their herd.
MPI is continuing to test milk from every dairy farm in New Zealand – a comprehensive programme that is nearly complete and is occurring alongside MPI's extensive surveillance work tracing every possible movement of animals from infected farms.
"We acknowledge that some farmers may be disappointed they don't have access to a commercial diagnostic tool now to give them some certainty about whether their animals, or animals they may be purchasing, carry the infection. However, it's critically important that we don’t rush this – we have to get it right," said Mr Gwyn.
Advice for farmers
- If you have mastitis cases, contact your veterinarian who can submit samples to your veterinary diagnostic lab for Mycoplasma bovis testing. MPI covers the cost of this testing.
- If you suspect Mycoplasma bovis disease, contact the MPI disease hotline on 0800 80 99 66.
- To report movements to or from an infected property, phone the MPI freephone on 0800 00 83 33.
For properties not under MPI movement controls, we recommend following suggested biosecurity protocols. Check information on these websites: