MPI's progress in the response to the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis was the focus of a well-attended public meeting in Waimate last night.
Around 100 people turned out to hear MPI officials and a number of industry body partners outline the current surveillance and testing regime and timelines, the robustness of disease containment measures and the actions farmers can take to protect their farms.
There remains no change to the number of properties with confirmed positive test results for Mycoplasma bovis – 2 farms, both within the wider Van Leeuwen group of farms.
MPI's Animal Health Laboratory at Wallaceville is currently in the process of testing more than 4,600 samples of milk, blood and swabs from the 16 VLDG farms, neighbouring properties and other farms that we've found have received animals from VLDG farms.
It's a big job and good progress is being made. So far testing has been completed on 2,068 samples and MPI is steadily passing result information to farmers. The testing process is complex and takes some time. Tests need to be taken 3 or more times over 3 to 4 months before there is a definite result for each farm. It is estimated that, based on current knowledge, testing will take 12-13 weeks to complete.
A new type of test (ELISA) is being introduced which will speed things up but the lab is currently only applying it to higher risk more urgent testing as there is an international shortage of the required Mycoplasma bovis test kits. This is due to the unprecedented demand for the kits created by this MPI response. The specific test is infrequently used in other countries as most have established disease. The kit manufacturers are working with urgency to get us a further supply which should be here within a fortnight.
All this testing is to give MPI a picture of where the disease is present to help inform future management decisions. The main objective of all the activity is to eradicate the disease, if at all possible. But this is very dependent on how widespread it is.
Part of last night's presentation included reassurance for local farmers about the rigour of MPI's restrictions on the Van Leeuwen farms.
On farm, Mycoplasma bovis is spread from adult animal to animal through close contact and bodily fluids – for example mucus and also milking equipment. Calves can be infected through drinking milk from infected cows.
Off farm, the disease is mostly spread through movement of cattle. The existing movement restrictions on stock movement, along with cleaning and disinfecting vehicles on exit, are therefore the most appropriate measures to contain this disease.
Farmers at the meeting were encouraged to pay particular attention to standard biosecurity best practice including on-farm hygiene and care around the introduction of stock and other risk goods to the property.