Monday, April 22, 2024

Final sweep for M bovis infections

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The Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme is kicking off a new project to double-check all risk of infection has been found.
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M bovis programme director Stuart Anderson says it is timely to do this work now as planning moves fully to long-term surveillance.

The double-checking project will take a fresh look at some of the formerly infected properties, applying new tracing tools and greater knowledge of the disease.

Anderson says, in essence, it is doing a last sweep over the work that has been done in the past few years.

“It’s timely to do routine checks now to be sure no infection is around as we do the planning to move fully into long-term surveillance,” Anderson said.

“We have enhanced knowledge of the disease, knowing what we know now makes obvious sense to go back through infected properties with these new tools and knowledge and be sure there are no other risks.

“We want to be confident we have addressed all traces and risks associated with infected properties, that is best practice in terms of the disease eradication.”

The double-checking project will not go back to all 262 infected properties, instead targeting just 132 of the total infected properties recorded in the programme.

Over the coming weeks, the programme will look at all the information concerning these 132 previously infected properties.

The farms being considered are based on farm type, the original lab testing data and how infectious they were particularly in terms of how many properties they went on to infect. 

“We’ll use the knowledge we now have of the disease and advanced software tools we’ve developed,” he said.

“These have a greater ability to model spread and risk, and can fill in NAIT gaps, so we can better understand any risks that could remain.”

The project will be largely a desk-based exercise.

“We expect very few farmers will need to be contacted by the programme for follow up,” he said.

“In the unlikely event we find anything of concern, we’ll carry out further testing.

“We realise this work may cause some anxiety, but it’s an important and common part of any big disease eradication programme.

“Doing this work will give us confidence that when we ultimately declare freedom from disease, we have considered everything and have found as many of the infected animals out there as we possibly can.” 

MPI will work with the few farmers that may need follow up to make sure they have the support they need, and the work is progressed swiftly.

The project has in part been developed because of poor NAIT compliance and animal movement recording. 

“It will enable us to check gaps in animal movement records, closing potential risks and making our biosecurity system stronger,” he said.

“We owe it to the 262 farmers who have sacrificed a lot for the M bovis eradication effort, to ensure we have looked for every risk of infection and addressed it.

“This work will help ensure we’ve left no stone unturned, protecting the taxpayer and farmer investment made to date.”

In the meantime, one more property has been added this week to the list of infected properties.

The new Canterbury grazing property links to the current Canterbury cluster bringing it now to a total of 11.

No infected properties outside of Canterbury have been identified since the winter of 2020, which Anderson says is an encouraging sign.

“We are continuing Bulk Tank Milk screening and we are interested in the next couple of months with autumn calving,” he said.

The beef surveillance programme also continues with both on-farm and meat plant testing.

“As yet, we have not found any infections in the beef surveillance testing, which is giving us a degree of confidence that nothing has been found in the beef herds,” he said.

As the current infected properties are progressively revoked towards year end, a plan is being investigated to depopulate the infected Five Star Beef feedlot.

“That (feedlot) has to be depopulated and cleared of M bovis, but this is a complex process to manage involving multiple flow on of inter-related industry aspects and wider business impact,” he said.

“The beginning of the process for depopulation has been commissioned and is being investigated (by MPI) to find a way forward, we will then work with the owners, ANZCO, to develop the plan.

“There is no firm timeframe of when that depopulation will happen, it is unlikely to be this year.”

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