Resources for farmers on Mycoplasma bovis

In a joint decision, the Government and industry have agreed to attempt phased eradication of Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand. The outbreak of M. bovis and the phased eradication programme underscores the importance of on-farm biosecurity. This information resource aims to help you understand what the phased eradication programme means for your farm business, support you to review your general farm biosecurity, and provide relevant information about M. bovis.

NEW RESOURCE: Mycoplasma bovis guidance for beef cattle farmers

What does phased eradication mean for farmers?

The attempt at phased eradication of M. bovis from New Zealand will mean that the current tracing, testing, lock down, and culling programme will continue with the aim of first containing then eliminating M. bovis.

Where a herd has cattle that have tested positive for Mp. bovis, that farm will be subject to movement and biosecurity restrictions, and the herd will eventually be culled. The farm will then be disinfected and required to lie fallow for 60 days (following depopulation) before being repopulated.

While M. bovis is more prevalent and has a larger impact on dairy herds, it is likely that the phased eradication programme will impact beef farms too.

What does this mean for your farm?

Initially the response will be much the same as what we are seeing now, with intensive active surveillance, including testing and tracing, continuing in order to detect infected herds. 

If you have bought or received grazing cattle or calves from a farm with M. bovis there is a risk you will be may be put under movement restrictions and subject to testing.  There is advice below about how to manage the risk of bringing cattle onto your property.  But if you have kept your cattle separate and kept good records then it will be easier for MPI to determine if your cattle have been infected or not.

It is likely that those farms under Restricted Place Notices, but not confirmed as infected, will need to have their herd culled in future, depending on risk and test results

If your herd has, or does test positive, for M. bovis it does mean that your farm will be subject to biosecurity and movement restrictions, and that your cattle will be culled. The Ministry for Primary Industries currently estimates that approximately 190 farms in total (including the ones already identified) will be infected and require depopulation. The prediction is that 126,000 cattle will be culled over the next 10 years in addition to the current culling underway. Most culling is expected to happen in the next 1 to 2 years.

In addition, following depopulation, an infected farm will be disinfected and lie fallow for 60 days to ensure it is free of M. bovis, after which it can be restocked.

MPI has committed to there being some flexibility around the timing of depopulation to offset production losses.

Where tracing information indicates that M. bovis is suspected on a farm, it will also mean biosecurity restrictions including movement controls until the status of a herd can be determined. This can take some weeks.

What is being done to support affected farmers?

MPI has committed to speeding up the compensation process for losses incurred because cattle were culled, and we encourage all farmers to keep comprehensive records to both assist with compensation claims as well as managing biosecurity issues.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand is also increasing its assistance for the Rural Support Trust and will be continuing to develop practical on-farm advice and tools for farmers to manage the specific biosecurity risks associated with M. bovis.

Where can I find more information on M. bovis and information on support and compensation?

Further down on this page you can find a comprehensive list of resources about M. bovis, including practical advice on biosecurity measures, information on understanding M. bovis and its impact, as well as details about the phased eradication programme and how to access support and compensation resources.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is managing the phased eradication programme and compensation claims, and more information on these can be found on their website or by contacting MPI directly on 0800 00 83 33 where they have a team dedicated to answering questions on M. bovis.

The Rural Support Trust is also available to assist farmers. More information is available on the Rural Support Trust’s website or on 0800 787 254.

What does Mycoplasma bovis mean for the beef industry?

To let us know where we’re at, industry and MPI experts reviewed the global literature on M. bovis in light of the NZ farming systems and predict that the impacts on beef production, were the disease to become established, will be minimal. More details can be found here.

As we learn more about the disease in New Zealand, there will be an opportunity to reassess the situation. However, our current understanding of the impacts observed during the outbreak gives us no reason to believe that this assessment needs to be changed.

Regardless of the clinical impacts of the disease, now that phased eradication is being pursued beef farmers need to treat M. bovis extremely seriously owing to the fact that infection, if detected, will be accompanied by whole-herd depopulation. Advice on keeping your farm free from M. bovis can be downloaded from the MPI Website.

Importantly, if you have a beef breeding herd and also rear bull beef or dairy beef steers, you are strongly advised to keep your breeding herd entirely separate and run as a closed herd. Keep very good records of this separation so that if infection is introduced with animals purchased for rearing, then response measures may only apply to those animals in contact with the purchased stock. MPI will provide more details about how to keep these records and what to do very soon.

We encourage you to review your biosecurity farm management practices and ensuring your NAIT records are complete and accurate.

From the outset, B+LNZ has been working closely with MPI, DairyNZ and other industry partners in a coordinated response and will continue to do so. We strongly encourage farmers to attend any MPI or industry led M. bovis meetings in their region.

We are developing further resources and would welcome feedback on what farmers feel they need at this time.

If you have any questions, contact your local farm extension team or email Paul McCauley (B+LNZ support person) at Paul.mccauley@beeflambnz.com

MPI M. bovis public meetings

The Ministry for Primary Industries are continually updating the list of meetings for their roadshow on their M.bovis website.

Biosecurity resources for sheep & beef farmers

Specific resources for graziers, calf rearing and those bringing new cattle onto their property.

General biosecurity

Understanding Mycoplasma bovis

Information and advice if your property is put under movement restrictions or a decision is made to cull

Compensation and support

Mycoplasma bovis – an overview

Mycoplasma bovis:

  • is a bacterial disease
  • is commonly found in cattle all over the world, including in Australia, but this is the first detection of it in New Zealand. We were one of the last countries free of the disease - until now
  • it does not infect humans and presents no food safety risk. There is no concern about eating meat, milk and milk products
  • M. bovis is particularly difficult to detect, owing to the poor sensitivity of diagnostic tests, and the fact that many cattle which become infected will never show visible signs of disease
  • however, under the right conditions, it can lead to serious conditions in cattle and therefore constitutes an animal welfare and productivity issue
  • it spreads from animal to animal through close contact. Between farms it spreads through the movement of animals that are infected but not showing symptoms. It is also potentially spread on contaminated equipment and the feeding of untreated milk to calves. It is not windborne
  • while some of the conditions can be treated, affected cattle will always be carriers of the disease
  • the disease does not affect sheep or cause illness in goats.

How it affects cows

Infection does not mean clinical disease will develop. However, signs of M. bovis disease include:

  • untreatable mastitis
  • severe pneumonia in up to 30% of infected calves, starting as a hacking cough
  • ear infections in calves, the first sign typically being one droopy ear, progressing to ear discharges and in some cases a head tilt
  • abortions
  • swollen joints and lameness (severe arthritis/synovitis) in all ages of cattle
  • if you see anything unusual or concerning in your animals, call your vet.

Advice

There are steps you can take on farm to help protect your animals from contracting M.bovis, by referring to the resources provided on this page.

For more information, you can go to the MPI webpage dedicated to Mycoplasma bovis.