An update meeting on Mycoplasma bovis in Hamilton earlier this month, threw up several questions, not least where were all the farmers?
That’s the view of Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) national controller Geoff Gwyn.
His comments came as national bulk milk testing nears its final stage; so far only three more farms have been confirmed with the bacterial disease.
Gwyn told Rural News that while the results are very encouraging, he doesn’t believe farmers are out of the woods yet.
“I think farmers have two years of heavy lifting before we can say we have dealt with the bulk of the problem; no doubt after that we will get into long term management and ongoing surveillance.”
Over the next two years it is critical that farmers maintain biosecurity practices onfarm and improve National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) records.
Gwyn says a NAIT record is a farmer’s best friend; all animal movements must be recorded.
“NAIT records are very good indicators for you, if you’re buying animals, to understand where they have come from — the last farm.”
Farmers are also encouraged to put animals in an isolated area for seven days for observation and to get vets to check them if need be.
Gwyn says the results of the bulk milk tests so far are good news for farmers.
All three M. bovis confirmed properties were already part of the tracing programme, with previous known links to the disease; one was under surveillance and the other two were about to go under surveillance.
Under the testing programme, 11300 dairy suppliers are being tested six times over a ten-week period, with collections two weeks apart. Until last week, four rounds of testing were completed; 50% were on the way to fifth-round tests and 2000 farms had finished sixth-round tests.
Under the testing programme, milk samples from every New Zealand dairy farm are being taken shortly after calving, when cows are most likely to be shedding the bacterium.
“The fact that we have confirmed Mycoplasma bovis on only three farms, and that all three of them were already on our radar, is encouraging,” Gwyn says.
“It reinforces our belief that we are dealing with a single strain of Mycoplasma bovis, based on the available scientific evidence and our own work in the field.
“While this remains an extremely difficult time for affected farmers, and we still have a lot of work to do, I’m confident we are on the right path in tracking down the disease and eradicating it from New Zealand,” Gwyn says.
Full results from the bulk milk testing are expected to be delivered to most farmers in the North and South Islands in early December.
$100 million spent
MPI has spent about $100 million on the Mycoplasma bovis campaign since July last year.
National controller Geoff Gwyn says this includes compensation paid to farmers forced to cull stock.
Gwyn says funding isn’t an issue, with $880 million committed by the Government and industry.
DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ are paying 32% of the $880m; they are still negotiating on the split of their respective contributions.
Gwyn says he’s not privvy to discussions between the two organisations.