• Patrick McBride

Mycoplasma bovis eradication reaches two year milestone in good shape

New Zealand’s world-first plan to eradicate the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis is on track the latest technical data shows.

Two years ago the Government, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand and industry partners made a bold decision to go hard and commit to a 10-year, $880 million programme to eradicate M. bovis.

Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said recent events have shown what an important moment this decision was for our economy.

“Had we thrown up our hands and said ‘it’s too hard’ and left this disease 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.

“Beef and dairy export prices have held up. In fact, there was record demand for our meat. In March total red meat monthly exports topped $1 billion for the first time. This shows that these sectors are well-placed to lead us out of this economic crisis."

There is currently 17 active properties and 232 that have been cleared of the disease. With culled cattle of 154,788. The Estimated Dissemination Rate is now at 0.4, which is down from over two at the start of the outbreak.

DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel said there’s no question M. bovis has had a huge impact on the sector, particularly those affected farmers and their families.

“While there’s still work to do, farmer feedback has been heard and processes improved. We are seeing more farmer-focused processes and shorter turnaround times for farms under movement restrictions,” said Mr van der Poel.

“From here, we want to continue speeding up the process so farmers are moving through the programme as quickly as possible. M. bovis has been one of our biggest biosecurity incursions and it has highlighted how crucial biosecurity is for New Zealand.”

Andrew Morrison, chairman of Beef + Lamb New Zealand, said farmers deserve a lot of credit for their efforts in helping to free New Zealand of this disease.

“Although there is still a long way to go, the sector can be proud of its contribution. We are encouraged by the increasing number of farmers meeting their NAIT obligations but we are still short of where we need to be," he said.