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M. bovis oubreaks in New Zealand: 36 farms and counting

Farmers in New Zealand are being urged to look out for the signs of Mycoplasma bovis following the detection of the cattle disease in another new area of the country.

A beef and sheep farm near Cheviot in North Canterbury is the latest confirmed case of the disease. This marks the first time the disease has been detected in the region, and brings the total number of farms infected throughout the country to 36. The disease was first detected in New Zealand on 22 July 2017.

Photo: Robert Bodde
Photo: Robert Bodde

What happened during the first outbreak last year?

  • July 22: Mycoplasma bovis identified in a dairy herd in the South Island of New Zealand. This was the first report of the organism in New Zealand and a response under the Biosecurity Act was initiated as M. bovis was considered an exotic risk organism (Unwanted Organism). 25 cows were euthanised.

  • July 31: A second dairy farm in South Canterbury is infected. This farm was already under biosecurity scrutiny.

  • August 11: The Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Animal Health Laboratory keeps on testing and at this stage more than 4,600 samples of milk, blood and swabs from 16 farms have been tested. A new type of test (ELISA) is being introduced which will speed things up but the lab is currently only applying it to higher risk more urgent testing as there is an international shortage of the required Mycoplasma bovis test kits.

  • August 23: A third South Island property suspected to be positive.

  • August 29: Another 3 new properties have been identified as positive. Total infected farms in New Zealand is now 6.

  • September 8: The MPI testing programme for Mycoplasma bovis continues at pace with over 15,000 tests now completed by MPI’s Animal Health Laboratory at Wallaceville.

  • October 2: 1 new property detected positive. This farm was already under a Restricted Place notice under the Biosecurity Act.

  • November 8: The MPI placed 2 additional properties in the Waimate district under movement controls following suspicious test results.

  • November 15: Another farm found positive. At this stage the MPI tested more than 40,000 samples of milk, blood and swabs.

  • December 12: 4 more properties tested positive.

  • January 9: Disease found on farm in the Ashburton area.

  • January 12: MPI and dairy industry extend milk testing programme for Mycoplasma bovis.

  • January 15: At this stage there are 23 infected properties – 22 in the lower South Island and one in the Hawke’s Bay.

  • March 5: There are currently 24 active infected properties (which are under movement restrictions). There have been 29 properties confirmed with infection since the response began but some have been amalgamated into one unit, or had restrictions lifted following depopulation and cleaning.

  • March 26: MPI has determined that all cattle on properties infected will be culled. The depopulation of entire herds on all 28 Infected Properties (IPs) affects around 22,000 animals.

  • April 18: A commercial diagnostic tool, which will allow farmers to test for cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis themselves, is being developed by a partnership comprising commercial laboratories, industry representatives and the MPI.

  • May 3: A second farm in the North Island tests positive. There are now 35 infected properties in total.

  • May 9: New infection in the north Canterbury region. It is the first time the disease has been found in this region and the affected property is a mixed sheep and beef farm near Cheviot. Total infected farms is now 36.

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