M. bovis clarity sought

Increased surveillance has resulted in an influx of farms expected to have animal restrictions to stop the spread of M. bovis.            
Photo supplied

Sheep and beef farmers are seeking further clarity on the surge in in farm numbers believed to have mycoplasma bovis as a result of increased surveillance.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) announced last week that officers would contact 300 farmers over the next few weeks as a result of them carrying high-risk animals.

About 250 of them are expected to receive notices of direction restricting animal movements and 10-12 per cent to end up confirmed with the cattle disease.

About two-thirds of the properties are beef farms and the rest are dairy operations

Beef+Lamb New Zealand chairman Andrew Morrison said many cattle farmers would have picked up that many of the properties being investigated were beef farms.

He said beef farmers had contacted the industry body about the surge in property numbers and had sought greater clarity about how this came about.

“In particular, the large number of beef properties anticipated to be put under movement control is concerning, especially at a time of the year where many of you are anticipating high movements, either within your own beef operation or in conjunction with dairy farmers for grazing.’’

Morrison said Beef+Lamb would be working with DairyNZ and MPI this week to provide greater detail on how this situation has arisen, the wider strategy and timing and how farmers could best manage risks and potential disruption to their businesses.

He said the industry body would support all farmers affected by the M. bovis programme.

“We are helping farmers to operate under legal restrictions, make plans for the future and help with preparing compensation claims through our [compensation assistance] team.’’

The ministry expects three-quarters of the properties will come from the South Island once a full regional breakdown is completed over the next few weeks.

Yet to be confirmed is if many of the new farms identified are from the Ashburton district.

By the last count about 40 per cent of the 161 properties confirmed positive with M. bovis were in the district, including active and cleared farms.

MPI announced the spike last week and said it was increasing its disease programme activity in the lead up to autumn and winter stock movements to limit the risk of M. bovis spreading and to give farmers as much certainty as possible heading into a busy farming period.

Programme director Geoff Gwyn said more properties than usual were expected to be placed under movement restrictions because of increased surveillance late last year.

He said the surge in property numbers did not represent an increased spread of the disease or a change in confidence that eradication would be achieved.

Farmers were worried that MPI had enough staff to carry out disease tracing.

The owners of about 800 properties are also being contacted about low-risk animal movements to prevent the spread of M. bovis. Less than 0.4 per cent of them are expected to be confirmed with the disease.

– By Tim Cronshaw