Disease which prompted cull spreads further in NZ

A disease which has prompted a cull of cattle in New Zealand has been detected on yet another farm.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) confirmed that the contagious, bacterial cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis has been found on a mixed sheep and beef farm in the north Canterbury region.

As with all other infected properties, this farm is under movement controls restricting the movement of any risk goods – including animals – on or off the property, the MPI explained.

The farm was identified through the tracing of animals from known infected farms, it added.

The discovery of new infected properties is not because the disease is spreading off infected farms, according to Mycoplasma bovis response incident controller Catherine Duthie.

All the infected farms we know about are in quarantine lock down and no movements of risk goods, including animals, are allowed off them.

“Rather, the new finds are the result of our tracing uncovering historical movements of animals and then confirming the infection through testing. These movements, in many cases, took place before we even knew Mycoplasma bovis was in the country,” she said.

While there are a number of farms in the north and south islands under quarantine as testing is underway, it is very possible that more infected farms will be found, the MPI warned.

Currently, there is a total of 36 ‘active’ infected properties (quarantined under movement restrictions); 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.

Cull ordered

Towards the end of March, the MPI made the decision to cull all of the cattle on the 28 infected properties identified at that time in New Zealand.

It is hoped that the “depopulation” of these farms will be completed by the end of this month, with the exception of a small number of farms where it may not be completed until June or July.

All affected farmers will be compensated for their verifiable losses, the MPI has assured.

The MPI is confident that the Mycoplasma bovis is limited to animals connected by movements between farms, which means that the disease is not widespread throughout New Zealand and that the culling of those animals is now “appropriate”.

It was estimated that approximately 22,300 animals would be culled altogether.