Around 1,200 samples tested for contagious cattle disease in NZ

Around 1,200 samples have been tested over the past two weeks in an effort to detect, contain and eradicate – if possible – the Mycoplasma bovis disease in New Zealand.

The country’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is continuing to build the picture of where the cattle disease is present in order to provide assurances to farmers and the New Zealand public.

Mycoplasma bovis is a bacterium that causes illness in cattle; the disease has very little effects on other animals. It does not infect humans and presents no food safety risk, the MPI added.

Symptoms of the disease include: udder infection (mastitis); late-term abortion; pneumonia in calves; and arthritis in both calves and cows.

The disease has been detected on two out of the 16 farms owned by the Van Leeuwen Dairy Group.

Despite the disease being relatively common around the world, this is reportedly the first time it has been detected in New Zealand.

Surveillance and testing

The MPI is carrying out surveillance and testing in a planned manner, based on prioritising risks and ensuring rigorous sampling and testing protocols are being followed, the Ministry Director of Response, Geoff Gwyn, said.

We are 13 days into the response and we are making very good progress. To give you an idea of the scale, our lab has processed around 1,200 samples to date.

There are 62 properties bordering farms owned by the Van Leeuwen Dairy Group; all of these farms that have cattle on them will be tested by the MPI, Gwyn said.

A total of nine bordering farms have received their results to date, with all coming back negative for Mycoplasma bovis.

“This is good news, but further testing on these farms will be required before they can be declared free of the disease and we expect testing to take several months.

“Sample testing is a complex process which takes time, and it’s important we take that time to get accurate results. The disease doesn’t always present symptoms so we need to take two sets of samples one month apart, and possibly a third depending on those results.

I realise that farmers are keen to get answers as soon as possible. Our labs’ teams are working quickly and thoroughly seven days a week, and we have increased staff numbers to carry out the work.

“On average, the process takes up to seven days from taking the sample on-farm, to getting back to the farmer with the results.

“MPI vets, scientists and on-the-ground staff are working hard on the response and we are getting great support from industry organisations. We remain focused on eradicating this disease from New Zealand,” Gwyn concluded.