M.bovis on the ropes, three years out

Damien O’Connor: The hard and early approach with which we responded to Covid-19 was the same approach we took early on … to eradicate M.bovis to protect our national herd. Credit: Pixabay

New Zealand’s world-first effort to eradicate the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis has made significant progress with the number of infected properties dropping to new lows, three years to the day (yesterday)  since it was first detected in New Zealand.

 “To date, 250 properties have been infected by the disease – with all but four now clear of it,” Biosecurity and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

 “The hard and early approach with which we responded to Covid-19 was the exact same approach we took early on in our term as a Government to eradicate M.bovis to protect our national herd, the economic base of our primary sector, and the social good of the country,”O’Connor said.

 “Key to the success is our programme partners DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand. They were part of the bold decision to attempt to eradicate this disease and have been part of our efforts since the very beginning.

 “It was estimated that allowing the disease to spread could cause $1.3 billion in economic losses in the first ten years alone, along with substantial animal welfare issues, and ongoing severe challenges for farmers having to manage the disease within their herds.

 “One key measure of success of our 10-year eradication plan, the Estimated Dissemination Rate (EDR), shows strongly that we have M.bovis firmly in our sights. If the EDR is greater than one, then the disease is growing. If it’s below one, we’re shrinking the disease. The EDR is now at 0.4, which is down from over two at the start of the outbreak, so we are looking harder to find fewer infected animals.

 “We’ve shown, again, that we’re able to do what others countries have not in terms of disease eradication efforts. That’s something our farming community should be proud of.

 “Allowing the disease to spread would have caused lost productivity in our vital cattle sectors and affected the economy.  Had we left M.bovis to run rampant, I’m not sure our dairy and beef sectors would have been able to weather the economic storm of COVID-19 and the challenges of drought conditions as well as they have.

 “The eradication effort has not been without substantial challenges, and the impact on affected farmers can’t be under-estimated. Farmers deserve a lot of credit for their efforts. We are continuing to improve processes and work hard to support their wellbeing and recovery, including getting their compensation claims paid as quickly as possible.

 “We are also changing tax law to help further farmers whose herds were culled. A significant tax bill can arise in the year they receive a compensation payment so we’ll be making a change that means they may be eligible to spread their income over several years.

 “There is still work to be done, and there will be more infected farms to find – but we’re well and truly on track to do what no other country in the world has done and eradicate this disease.

 “The next 12 months is about ensuring that we have found all infected herds. This will involve ongoing Bulk Tank Milk Surveillance, nation-wide beef surveillance, and on-farm testing of herds that could have been exposed, to ensure that they are not infected.

 “We will not let up on our efforts, and will ensure that this disease is gone so that we can farm free from it in the future,” O’Connor said.

View edition 984 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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