The Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) Programme is increasing activity in the lead up to autumn and winter stock movements to limit the risk of disease spread, and to give farmers as much certainty as possible heading into this busy period in the farming calendar.
This means the programme will see a surge in the number of properties contacted about the movement of risk animals, and a higher number of properties than usual will be placed under movement restrictions, says programme director Geoff Gwyn.
"This is happening in a short period because of increased surveillance late last year, which has resulted in a peak in the number of high-risk properties that we have identified, and the desire to get ahead of the curve before autumn and winter stock movements get into full swing.
"We will contact about 300 farmers as a priority over the next few weeks who have had high-risk animals move onto their property. We would expect 250 of those to have Notice of Direction movement controls placed on them immediately and, following testing, that 10 per cent to 12 per cent may become Confirmed Properties."
Mr Gwyn said around two-thirds of the properties were beef farms and the remainder dairy.
"There is also around 800 other properties that will be contacted about very low-risk animal movements, as we continue to work to ring fence the spread of M. bovis.
"This is a very different category of farm. These properties have had low-risk events, like having sent an animal to a property that has become infected, but we do need to check. We expect less than 0.4 per cent of these properties to become Confirmed Properties.
"It is important to note the surge does not represent increased spread of the disease and does not change our confidence that we will achieve eradication.
"To achieve eradication it is vital that we prevent the movement of high-risk animals before Moving Day and winter grazing movements. Doing this as soon as possible before Moving Day will mean less disruption to the farmers involved.
"We know hearing that your farm is at risk is distressing for any farmer, we will ensure they are well supported through the process."
Mr Gwyn said MPI (the Ministry for Primary Industries) believed there were another 12 months of intensive surveillance, movement controls, and depopulation before the bulk of the eradication effort was completed.
"We are now entering a period where we will have to look at a greater number of farms to find a diminishing number of Confirmed Properties.
"We've had a number of farmer meetings over the last week where some farmers have said they have had movements onto their farm they were concerned about, but that they haven't been contacted by the M. bovis Programme.
"We would anticipate those farmers fit into the very low-risk category and will be picked up through this process."
Autumn movement advice
MPI and its industry partners DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand are beginning a programme of advice to farmers on how best to manage the risk of M. bovis risk during the winter period, in particular with regard to increased animal movements starting with Moving Day on 1 June.
Next week we will be releasing new tools for our regional teams to use to support farmers under regulatory controls that need to make winter grazing movements and help them plan for how to farm through these restrictions. MPI, DairyNZ, and Beef + Lamb New Zealand will be working hard to support affected farmers and get them through the winter months while under restrictions.