Guest post: OSPRI is on a mission for farmers

Stephen Stuart, OSPRI
Stephen Stuart, OSPRI.

Behind New Zealand’s reputation as an exporter of quality produce to the world’s markets is a highly skilled team driving disease management and traceability, says Stephen Stuart.

Thanks in part to our cricketers, rugby players, netballers and farmers, New Zealand’s international reputation just gets stronger.

The heroism and heartbreak of the past few weeks of international sport has kept many of us bleary-eyed. So we can empathise with the pre-dawn starts and late finishes that New Zealand farmers work through every day of every season.

Like our farmers, at OSPRI we do it because New Zealand needs a strong international reputation for quality primary produce is the backbone of this country’s exporting economy.

The world needs to be assured that the meat and milk from our grass-fed animals on these fresh-air islands is safe, nutritious and free of disease. With booming populations and global political uncertainty, quality assurance is increasingly important.

A joined-up approach to biosecurity and traceability is becoming crucial to defend our borders from diseases such as Mycoplasma bovis and destructive pests such as the brown marmorated stink bug.

OSPRI has had little to do with the stink bug, but the traceability data needed for the Mycoplasma bovis response has helped improve the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system by encouraging all farmers to get registered and establishing an eradication strategy for the disease.

Disease management is in OSPRI’s DNA. The eradication of a related bug – bovine tuberculosis (TB) – has been part of OSPRI’s skill set since it was set up, and the TBfree eradication programme is recognised as world-leading.

The combination of TB testing, possum control and stock movement controls has brought infected herd numbers down from 1,700 at the peak in the mid-90s to fewer than 25 today.

When the last herds have been cleared within the next decade (by 2026), and TB has been removed from the possums that spread disease between wildlife and livestock (by 2040), New Zealand will be recognised as the only country in the world to have eradicated bovine TB.

That’s is projected to happen in 2055 and will rank, in agricultural circles, as a world cup performance.

We want farmers to know: OSPRI has got your back. Supporting the success of farmers is our motivation, and world-class disease management and traceability is our mission.

Stephen Stuart is OSPRI chief executive.

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