Three years on and M. bovis eradication effort is on track

// Biosecurity

Today, 22 July, marks three years since Mycoplasma bovis was first detected in New Zealand. Finding this bacteria here was a shock to the industry, and kicked off one of New Zealand’s largest ever biosecurity responses.


An email marking this anniversary has been sent to farmers from Sam McIvor, Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO, Kelvan Smith, Independent Chair of the M. bovis Governance Group, Ray Smith, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Director-General, Penny Nelson, MPI Deputy Director-General for Biosecurity and Tim Mackle, DairyNZ CEO.

The email notes:

Our joint decision to attempt eradication was a difficult call. The extensive movement of cattle in New Zealand, and the importance of this sector to our economy, meant that eradication, while difficult, was the best option for our farmers and our economy.

The past three years have presented enormous challenges, and it has been a difficult, uncertain and disruptive time for farmers and their families, especially those directly affected. The process has not always been smooth and at times mistakes have been made. We have had to continually change, adapt and improve, often being guided by direct feedback from affected farmers. 

However, today we can report that the M. bovis Programme is on track, and we are confident that we will achieve eradication so that we can farm free from this disease.

As of today, there are just two farms (both finishing beef operations) with infected cattle still on farm. Two other farms still under a Restricted Place Notice have been depopulated and are completing clean and disinfected. There are currently 48 farms under Notices of Direction, 79% down on one year ago. The Bulk Tank Milk Surveillance programme is finding very few infected farms and the National Beef Surveillance programme has found none to date.

It is important to note that there is still work to be done, and we expect to find some more infected herds. There will be farms with Bulk Tank Milk screening detect results during spring, and there will be other farms which might have been exposed to trace cattle. All of these farms will require testing to make sure we’ve found every infected herd. We are aiming to move fully to the long-term surveillance programme to prove the disease is gone within the next 12 months.

We still need every farmer to rigorously maintain NAIT records. We have seen impressive improvements and it remains an essential tool to finish the eradication process. It’s vital that farmers tag every animal, register it in NAIT immediately, and record every movement between NAIT locations.

Our progress to date illustrates the value of a collaborative approach to fighting M. bovis with Government and industry working in partnership. But in particular, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the farmers who have been affected by this disease and who have gone through the challenging eradication process so we can all farm free from M. bovis in the future.

We are pleased that we can report your personal efforts and sacrifices over the past three years are bringing us towards our collective goal to farm free from this disease.