Ashburton feedlot the last bastion of M. bovis

The country’s largest beef feedlot, to the east of Ashburton is the last property to be infected with M. bovis.


New Zealand’s largest beef feedlot to the east of Ashburton is the last property to be infected with M. bovis and work to clear it will begin later this year.

Federated Farmers plant biosecurity spokesperson and South Canterbury farmer Colin Hurst said, “We need to keep our foot on the throat of this disease.

“Over the last few years 271 farms have been cleared of M. bovis and we’re down to just one infected property.

“It does underline the huge costs and disruption that can be avoided when we stop these organisms from getting into New Zealand, or when they’re here, stop them from the wider spread in our herds and environment.

“Our biosecurity personnel deserve proper resources to do their work well,” Hurst said.

“This will be increasingly important as our borders open up to international passenger travel.”

A $111 million injection for biosecurity in the May budget is a pragmatic acknowledgement of how vital it is to New Zealand’s economy we stop pest organisms at our borders, Hurst said.

“This extra money shows an appreciation by the government that pest incursions can wreak havoc in our primary industries.

“The funding announcement comes on the same day that we mark the fourth anniversary of New Zealand’s attempt to eradicate the cattle disease – indeed the $110.9m in the budget includes $68 million over the coming year to continue momentum on the M. bovis programme.”

The world-first attempt to eradicate the disease, which can cause lameness, mastitis and abortions in cows, began after it was first detected on a South Canterbury farm in 2017.

Since then, the disease has been confirmed and cleared from 271 properties, with more than 176,000 cattle culled.

Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor said no working farms were currently infected – the lone property was the large beef feedlot.

“Though we can’t rule out occasional finds elsewhere, we think it’s the right time to consider the future framework for the M. bovis Eradication Programme.

“Our partners, including the Ministry for Primary Industries, are working on a transition of the M. bovis Eradication Programme to an agency under a National Pest Management Plan (NPMP).

“We are at an important juncture.

“We are aiming to move from delimiting – controlling the last known pockets of the disease – to provisional absence.

“This will be followed by significant surveillance testing of herds around the country to provide assurance there are no undetected pockets of disease.”

Of the money announced last week, $42.9m would cover biosecurity measures offshore, at the border and domestically, as well as managing incursions in the country.

“The world is reopening from the pandemic.

“With increased travel alongside a warming climate, we face challenges from pests and diseases, which requires further investments to strengthen our biosecurity system,” O’Connor said.

– By Pat Deavoll