Some of our farmers have expressed concern about the recent reporting of the numbers of beef farms under movement controls or confirmed positive for M. bovis, and in particular, suggestions in the media that it’s ‘good news’ they aren’t dairy properties.
It’s certainly tough for any farm business affected by M. bovis and there is a huge amount of uncertainty for farmers dealing with the consequences of this disease.
We want to explain why from a disease management perspective this pattern is significant.
We understand these comments were made because the fact beef farms are affected has implications for the effectiveness of the response. Beef farms are much less infectious to other farms than dairy farms because they have fewer animal movements and the proportion of animals infected is lower on a beef farm, owing to their different management practices.
Also, when a beef farm becomes infected, often depopulation of only part of the farm is necessary because it is less likely stock have been mixed across different management groups and age classes than occurs on dairy farms.
Cleaning and disinfection activities on a beef farm are also much more straight-forward, leading to earlier removal of legal restrictions, than is the case with dairies.
However, we all understand that surveillance, movement controls and/or disease confirmation can be really hard for all affected farmers, regardless of their business, and we want to ensure all impacted farmers receive the support they need to deal with M. bovis and get back to business farming.
Other feedback we’ve received is the desire for clarity on the sources of risk within the beef industry, as currently the M. bovis Programme statistics reporting cannot easily distinguish between dairy origin animals reared for beef and more traditional beef breeding stock.
To date, nearly all beef confirmed cases have involved movements or contact with dairy origin animals, not traditional beef breeds or stud animals. There is confidence that the disease has not spread within the traditional beef industry and B+LNZ is working within the M. bovis Programme on sensible approaches to continue to monitor and confirm this.
We realise that right now, depending on where you are in the country, you’re probably busy on the farm calving, lambing, and/or docking. Looking forward to the next few months, there will be the odd cattle movements on and off farm.
If you have breeding stock moving on for mating, remember to check they’re from a known source and are fit and healthy – this goes for both males and females. We recommend you try and source animals from as few farms as possible and maintain records of where on your farm your cattle have been.
Above all, ensure your NAIT records are up to scratch for livestock arriving and departing – the robustness of the traceability system is really important for eradicating M. bovis and NAIT compliance is New Zealand law and a requirement for beef eligibility for some premium markets.
Finally, we know there is a lot change happening in the sector at present and much of it is unsettling. Please remember to look out for friends, family and neighbours. You can find more information about M. bovis and the support available at https://beeflambnz.com/mycoplasma-bovis