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Nationwide Milk Testing for M. bovis to be Introduced

12 January 2018

NEW ZEALAND - A milk test to find out if dairy farms carry Mycoplasma bovis will be extended nationwide as the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) works with the dairy industry to curb the spread of the disease.

The testing is being carried out on Canterbury, Otago and Southland farms. Checking other regions was essential to build a complete picture of the disease in New Zealand, the MPI said.

Stuff.co.nz reports that the programme involves testing three milk samples from every dairy farm. One sample will be taken from bulk milk as part of the regular sampling process at milk collection.

Farmers will also be required to provide two samples from 'discard milk', which is milk unsuitable for collection.

The disease was more easily identified in milk taken from sick animals, which made testing of this milk a valuable surveillance tool.

The move was backed by Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis who said they had been pushing for nationwide tests to better understand the spread of the disease.

"It's a good step forward and we have been hoping for this to happen for a while. We want to eradicate it and it will be helpful to know whether it's contained or widespread."

An MPI spokesman said the regional timeframe for the national surveillance programme had yet to be set.

A tender had been released for testing services and after the supplier was chosen, a regional timeframe would be developed.

The national programme would involve many individual tests and it could take up to 10 to 14 days for a test to be completed once the sample was received. A positive test would be followed up urgently.

The extended milk testing programme is expected to improve existing M. bovis surveillance activity, which includes tracing of animal movements from infected and suspect farms, vets looking for signs of the disease, testing of any animals with clinical signs, and testing all mastitis milk sent to laboratories.

The programme was expected to begin in February and will be rolled out in regions.

M. bovis is not a food safety risk for humans and is a disease that affects animal welfare and production. It only affected cattle, including dairy cows and beef cattle.

The testing comes just days after M. bovis was detected on an Ashburton dairy farm, bringing to 14 the total number of infected properties nationwide.

M. bovis is a common cattle disease in overseas dairy countries, but had not been detected in New Zealand until July last year. Since then it has spread to nine farms in South Canterbury, three in Southland, one in Ashburton and one in Hawke's Bay.

Meanwhile, Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean has hit back at criticism by Agriculture Minister Damian O'Connor of the previous Government's handling of the spread of the disease.

In an interview with NZME, Mr O'Connor said the previous government had been reluctant to enforce rules around traceability.

"Well if I can be perfectly blunt, I think that the National government was reluctant to offend any of their constituent farmers and climb into this."

Mr Dean said she was with the farmers at Glenavy last year in the days after M. bovis was identified on the farms.

"I stood with those families in their homes as they watched their animals suffer, their incomes disappear and their reputations suffer, and those families will have had an uncertain and miserable festive season".

"For the Minister for Primary Industries to now criticise the initial response is to criticise his own hard-working ministry team – this insidious disease is not something you should trivialise and what is needed is positive support, communication and co-operation for the affected rural communities."

TheCattleSite News Desk



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