Mycoplasma bovis

The recent outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis has underscored the importance of on-farm biosecurity. Regardless of M. bovis, on-farm biosecurity measures and NAIT movement recording are the ways to protect your farm and others from pests and diseases in NZ, including M. bovis. The following are key documents for you to refer to in terms of reviewing your general farm biosecurity and relevant information about M. bovis.
Monday, 12 February 2018

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.

The main impacts that sheep and beef farmers are likely to experience from M. bovis stem from uncertainty about risks associated with stock movements, specifically in respect to grazing contracts and bull leasing. Farmers in areas known to have infected properties are unfortunately experiencing a reluctance from some buyers to purchase their animals. 

Regardless of where you are in the country, we highly recommend that you should be reviewing your biosecurity farm management practices and ensuring your NAIT records are complete and accurate. 

MPI are not doing any media releases on new cases in existing areas but will provide a press release if there are any new cases found in a new area. We recommend you keep an eye on MPI’s situation report on their website.

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

B+LNZ biosecurity resources for sheep & beef farmers

Ministry for Primary Industries - biosecurity resources

Ministry for Primary Industries - M. bovis resources

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, although it is thought goats could carry and transmit it.

How it affects cows:

  • 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.

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