DairyNZ, B+LNZ and the Meat Industry Association have agreed in principle to collectively contribute $NZ11.2 million towards operational costs.
The announcement has naturally prompted some questions from farmers, so we want to clarify some details.
Although the impact of the disease on beef production is understood to be significantly lower than for dairy, there is still likely to be a small impact.
Under the Government Industry Agreement, public spending on biosecurity that benefits industries needs to be accompanied by industry contributions. The alternative is for the Crown to decide to no longer fund a response to a production disease.
On approving in principle to fund part of the industry share of $11.2 million, B+LNZ set a number of conditions on that contribution, including having a voice in decision making and that beef farmers should pay no more than a fair share.
The $11.2 million contribution from industry is for the initial phase of the response up until a decision is made about whether the disease can be eradicated or should only be controlled. We do not know what the decision will be after July and therefore what the industries’ long-term contribution may be.
The details of how much beef industry funding is appropriate and how it could be collected are currently being worked through by the industries and MPI, however a Biosecurity Act levy would be the likely route.
Based on an initial assessment of the impact of Mp.bovis, our expectation is that our contribution will be a minor share, relative to other industries.
Some farmers also want to know more about Mp.bovis and understand the risks.
Several factors such as stress, poor general conditioning and close and repeated contact are required to produce the right conditions for the clinical disease to emerge.
It’s important to remember that the risk of buying infected stock is low. MPI has tested thousands of farms and any that have tested positive or pose significant concern are under movement restrictions.
However, it’s vital farmers follow good general biosecurity practice. You should also ask questions about the provenance of animals including herd health history and rates of mastitis and any unusual signs of disease.
Unfortunately, testing for Mp.bovis is difficult. Currently, there are no tests commercially available. MPI, vet labs and the industries are exploring how any test could be introduced and what regime and policies would need to accompany their use, for example, to manage inevitable issues associated with false positive results. Multiple rounds of testing is required and interpretation of the results is not straightforward.
A number of farmers have asked about the risk of transport companies not taking the appropriate precautions against the disease.
To date, despite widespread surveillance, no farms have been identified as being infected via transport of stock in vehicles that previously carted infected stock. On farms not known to be infected, washings can be managed as usual.
Ultimately, we all want to know if there is a realistic prospect of the disease being eradicated.
This is what our industry investment is intended to help MPI determine. A decision about the future of Mp.bovis in New Zealand is anticipated at the end of this month and we will continue to keep you informed of any developments.
In the meantime, our team has been working hard in response to the disease outbreak. In addition to sharing and providing advice on biosecurity, we’re helping to develop guidance for farmers about protecting farms from Mp.bovis. We are also liaising with MPI on the response to ensure farmer issues are raised and industry perspectives are considered when looking at all the options.
Over the coming weeks, we will be organising a number of road-shows in conjunction with MPI, regional councils and OSPRI to help farmers develop bio-security plans for their farms and provide advice on local issues including the Mp.bovis response. Look out for further information on these road-shows in the next e-diaries.