Study will reveal more about M. bovis impact on cattle

Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 894 0328

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and its Mycoplasma bovis eradication partners DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand have initiated a research project into the direct impact of the devastating cattle disease. A Request for Quote from potential research providers has been issued.

The study is part of the Mycoplasma bovis Science Plan which aims to address the scientific challenges and research new tools that accelerate eradication of the bacterial disease. Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) can cause welfare and productivity issues in dairy and beef cattle.

M. bovis Science Plan [PDF, 1.2 MB]

Researchers will measure how M. bovis impacts infected animals and herds, including physical signs, effects on milk yield and quality, weight gain in cattle, and the duration of these effects.

"This study will increase our knowledge of the impact of M. bovis across different New Zealand farming systems. This is important as we need to have greater direct scientific understanding of its impact in a New Zealand farming context," says Dr John Roche, chair of the M. bovis Strategic Science Advisory Group and MPI's chief science adviser.

"We will use the findings to improve our detection of the disease, our surveillance tools, and to increase our understanding of how it spreads, which is key for eradication."

Only cattle already known to be positive for M. bovis will be used in the study. No cattle will be intentionally infected, and cattle will only be studied up until their agreed cull date.

New Zealand is the first country in the world to attempt to eradicate M. bovis. Dr Roche says science is a critical weapon in this fight, as recognised by the Government investment of up to $30 million for science.

This is the second M. bovis Science Plan project to go out to market, with the call for proposals for a major diagnostic research programme made several weeks ago.

The call for quotes has been issued on the Government Electronic Tender Service (GETS). Applications must be received by 2pm on 16 July 2019.

Find out more

GETS (Government Electronic Tender Service)

Mycoplasma bovis Science Plan [PDF, 1.2 MB]

Question and answers

Why are we doing this?

The purpose of the study is to understand the impact of the M. bovis infection on individual animals and herds to further our understanding of the disease across different farming systems in the New Zealand environment. The results will contribute valuable scientific evidence to help in the detection of the disease, improve our surveillance tools, and increase our understanding of how the disease spreads under different New Zealand farming systems, which is key in terms of eradication.

Will it cause any harm to the animals?

It is a natural infection study, which means the study will only research dairy and beef cattle and herds already infected with the disease. All animals involved in the study will not be kept beyond already agreed cull dates. Any research undertaken will be approved by an animal ethics committee and the research provider.

How will the animals be studied?

This is up to the successful supplier, but it could include methods such as taking milk or saliva samples, blood tests and animal observation. Physical signs such as mastitis, conjunctivitis and swollen joints, as well as the effect on milk yield and quality and weight gain are of interest.

The period of time that the researcher can study animals will be limited by agreed cull dates.  

How many animals/herds will be part of the study?

It will be up to the supplier to design the study, but it will encompass the different farming systems so the findings can be quantified and compared. The supplier will be required to work closely with MPI to identify suitable farms to study.

What do we know about the direct impact of this disease on animals?

We know from international research that the M. bovis bacterium can cause a range of serious conditions in cattle – including mastitis that doesn't respond to treatment, pneumonia, arthritis, and late-term abortions.

The disease may be dormant in an animal – causing no signs at all. But in times of stress (for example, calving, drying-off, transporting, or being exposed to extreme weather), the animal may become sick and/or shed bacteria in milk and nasal secretions and infect other animals.

This study will provide scientific evidence to quantify the direct impact of M. bovis on animals in the New Zealand farming environment – something we don't currently have a comprehensive understanding of. The more we know the better.

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