OPINION: The decision by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to impose an immediate halt to live animal exports in the wake the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 off the coast of Japan is a sensible move.
According to the latest report to MPI from the independent M. bovis technical advisory group (TAG), achieving eradication is feasible.
The TAG also supports the changes made to the programme over the last six months. It expects the disease to peak mid 2020 and then start to tail off. The latest figures show 4% of New Zealand’s 24,000 farms have been under restrictions and required testing due to possible exposure to M. bovis. So far, of the 201 farms found to be infected 185 have since been cleared of stock and declared safe to repopulate.
TAG’s report says there had also been signs of “improved operational performance” over the last six months, including a downward trend in the number of farms testing positive for the disease.
“Given currently available data, the TAG concludes that achieving biological freedom from M. bovis is feasible provided that the number of undetected infected herds is not large, infection has not established and spread within the non-dairy sector, and that the rate of transmission to new herds is reduced,” the report said.
TAG has also supported the development of a herd accreditation programme, which will allow farmers to purchase cattle from farms that are unlikely to be infected.
“The report has provided us with assurance that the programme is working, and that we’ve made the right changes and improvements over the past six months to improve the programme and support affected farmers,” MPI director-general Ray Smith says.
“M. bovis is one of the greatest biosecurity challenges we have faced in New Zealand, and both Government and our industry partners remain committed to achieving eradication while reducing the impact of that process on affected farmers as much as possible.
“The battle isn’t won yet. We still have hard work to do and there will be more farms placed under restrictions while testing is conducted. We also know that there are areas, like compensation, where we need to continue to improve.”
Smith claims that, so far, more than $100 million in compensation had been paid out and for most people the process is effective.
“However, we know that some complex claims are still taking too long and we are working on reducing that wait.”