Contagious disease in NZ leads to planned cull of over 125,000 cattle

The spread of a contagious cattle disease in New Zealand has lead to a planned cull of about 126,000 cattle, it has been announced.

It was revealed today that the Government and farming sector bodies would make an attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis from the country.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) confirmed that most of the eradication work will be carried out in one or two years.

The decision to order the widespread cull was taken in order to protect the national herd of dairy and beef cattle and to give farmers certainty, the MPI said.

The welfare of both farmers and their animals is at the heart of the decision.

The disease was first detected in July of last year.

Mycoplasma bovis can reportedly cause a range of “quite serious conditions” in cattle, including: mastitis that doesn’t respond to treatment; pneumonia; arthritis; and late-term abortions.

Assurances have been given that the disease does not infect humans and presents no food safety risk. Rather, Mycoplasma bovis has been classified as more of an animal welfare and productivity issue.

Cattle from about 190 farms will be culled

Currently, the disease has been detected on 37 farms. As well as this, approximately 260 suspect farms have been identified out of a possible 20,000. Only one strain of the disease has also been confirmed.

In a statement, the MPI said: “All cattle on infected farms and future infected farms, plus some high-risk farms under movement controls, will need to be culled.

“This means about 126,000 cattle from about 190 farms will need to be culled – most in one to two years. This is in addition to the current cull underway. The timing of any cull will be worked through with individual farmers to minimise impacts on production.

We will continue to trace all potentially affected cows, and test and cull herds with infected animals in them. This tracing, testing and culling will continue until ongoing regular surveillance finds no remaining evidence of Mycoplasma bovis.

“The number of response staff in the field will substantially increase to manage this. This means more skilled people will be able to work directly with affected farmers,” it said.

Compensation is available for any farmers who have verifiable losses as a result of directions they are given by MPI under the Biosecurity Act to manage Mycoplasma bovis.

Farmers that are directed to have animals culled, or their farm operations restricted under movement controls, will be eligible for compensation.

In particular, farmers whose animals are being culled will receive an initial payment for the value of culled stock within two weeks of a completed claim being lodged, the MPI claimed.