A commercial diagnostic tool which will allow farmers to test for cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis themselves is being developed.
Winton is close to one of the two main disease clusters, associated mainly with the Zeestraten family’s Southern Centre Dairies Ltd. The other cluster is around the Van Leeuwen Diary Group in South Canterbury, where Mycoplasma bovis was first identified in July 2017.
Suspecting the disease has been around at least a year earlier than 2017, VetSouth has posted an online survey form on its Facebook page, calling for anyone who has received animals or who knows of animal movements from a Zeestraten farm “anytime from 2016,” to either fill in the form or contact MPI directly.
Bryan says about 18 people have filled in the form, but VetSouth is passing responses straight to MPI. He cannot say whether any of the responses has led directly to new finds of the disease.
“The purpose of [the form] is the number of people who have lifestyle blocks and small numbers of calves, who don’t get access to normal communication channels such as DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ,” said Bryan.
“We quite often come across people who didn’t know about M. bovis; they’re just not in that loop.”
MPI also is calling for information on past contact with Southern Centre Dairies, asking for dairy or beef farmers with animals at high risk to make contact immediately.
“MPI is especially interested to hear from people who have received cattle or calves from Southland-based Southern Centre Dairies Ltd any time after January 1, 2016 and have not already been contacted by the ministry,” MPI said in a statement.
“Right now, we need to hear from any farmers who have bought cows and calves or milk for calf feed from farms that have been publicly identified as infected. If these farmers haven’t already heard from MPI through our tracing work, we would dearly like to hear from them.”
Bryan says it looks “very much” as though the disease has been around longer than thought, although that is “total supposition”.
The tracing indicates that cattle born in 2016 were infected, he says.