Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ Ltd) is pleased that the latest Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) Technical Advisory Group (TAG) report confirms that the phased eradication response is on track.
“The report states we have things to work on to give affected farmers the support they need,” says Chris Houston, technical policy manager at B+LNZ.
“We are making progress and the DairyNZ and B+LNZ Compensation Assistance Team (DBCAT) is an example of this. However, the deeper we get into this unprecedented response, the more we find we need to do.”
The report also recommends improving general surveillance in the beef sector to confirm assumptions that the prevalence of the disease in the beef industry is low.
“B+LNZ is working closely with MPI and partners to determine the best approach for beef surveillance. We all recognise this is a complicated issue that needs to be thought through carefully, taking into account the prevalence of the disease and accuracy of the testing,” says Dr Houston.
“Available evidence suggests that the prevalence of unknown disease in the beef industry is extremely small and the amount of resources required to survey each and every beef farm looking for the disease would be huge – effectively it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
“It’s important to remember, not a single farm that has tested positive for M. bovis to date has been infected by stock that has come from a beef farm, due to the lower risk profile that beef farms have for spreading M. bovis.
“We support the suggestion the TAG has also made for more targeted approaches to finding the disease such as focusing on places that receive animals from many sources – so called ‘aggregators’. If infected animals are detected entering these, then tracing activities can go back to the source farm(s) to remove the disease.
“In addition to efficiency, it’s important the approach adopted for beef surveillance is proportionate, given the performance of the tests we have available. Currently, the results obtained from a small number of farms have been extremely challenging to interpret. This has had significant consequences for the farmers involved, including imposition of lengthy periods of movement controls and destruction of stock.
“Our understanding of what test results mean is continually improving as more are undertaken. Refining how these are applied and interpreted will allow us the ability to implement wider surveillance in the future and minimise the impact on farmers.
“We are eager to detect M. bovis and manage risks among all cattle producers, and support farmers who have been impacted directly and indirectly by the M. bovis response.”