The Ministry for Primary Industries should know by early December whether its goal of eradicating Mycoplasma bovis is on track.
Its latest round of bulk milk testing on every dairy farm in the country will be completed and the MPI’s response would have been evaluated by a team of international experts.
There are 33 infected properties and 42 properties where MPI has revoked its infected property status, meaning it is free to resume farming cattle.
Three of those 33 are farms in Waikato and there were five such properties in the North Island.
MPI’s director of response Geoff Gwyn said the number of affected farms is moving in the right direction.
“All of the information and evidence we have at the moment looks as if we are on the right track. We are in a situation now where more properties have been through the infected process than are currently still in it.”
Gwyn was in Waikato on November 1-2 meeting with staff and affected North Island farmers.
While things look encouraging, that’s not a reason to think those properties under regulatory control across New Zealand aren’t feeling the strain of having or potentially having M bovis, he said.
“It’s very real for the people who are under it and for them – all of a sudden they have this not-so-silent business partner who is to a large extent controlling their operation. For a farmer, a day of that will seem like a lifetime and sometimes three or four months are involved in their lives which seems like an eternity.”
Gwyn said the latest round of bulk milk testing was timed to coincide with calving, when cows were most likely to be shedding the disease.
“After all of that testing we have only had three properties and all three were part of a network already under surveillance, it’s encouraging.”
The Government announced in May that it would attempt to eradicate the disease at an estimated cost of $886 million over 10 years.
The bacterial disease causes a range of conditions in cattle, including non-respondent mastitis, pneumonia, arthritis, and late-term abortions. M bovis is spread animal to animal through close contact and bodily fluids. Calves can be infected through drinking milk from infected cows. It was discovered in a South Canterbury dairy herd in July last year.
Gwyn said MPI was no closer to discovering how the disease entered New Zealand and investigations are ongoing.
He also believed farmer attitudes towards biosecurity had changed over the past six months, particularly around being fully compliant with the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme (Nait).
On most occasions when warning notifications of non-compliance were issued, farmers had changed their behaviour, he said.
“Which is encouraging. If we didn’t have Nait, we wouldn’t be able to attempt this.”
He also urged farmers to make a submission on the MPI’s latest round of consultation on how Nait could be improved before its December 19 deadline.