Saturday, December 2, 2023

Report positive on M bovis progress

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The battle isn’t won yet but with improvements in some areas of the Mycoplasma bovis programme, eradication of the disease is still possible, the latest independent Technical Advisory Group report says.
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The report supports changes to the programme in the past six months and acknowledges the substantial changes made based on the findings of the earlier Paskin (DairyNZ) and Roche (Primary Industries Ministry) reviews.

Changes include improvements to information management systems, resourcing, management and communications.

While it is too early to measure the operational impact of those changes, put in place June, there are positive signs of improved performance.

MPI director-general Ray Smith said the report provides assurance the programme is working.

“We’ve made the right changes and improvements over the past six months to improve the programme and support affected farmers.

“M bovis is one of the greatest biosecurity challenges we have faced in NZ and both Government and our industry partners remain committed to achieving eradication while reducing the impact of that process on affected farmers as much as possible,” Smith said.

“The battle isn’t won yet. 

“We still have hard work to do and there will be more farms placed under restrictions while testing is conducted. 

“We also know that there are areas like compensation where we need to continue to improve.”

More than $100 million in compensation has been paid.

“However, we know that some complex claims are still taking too long and we are working on reducing that wait,” Smith said. 

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said “Speed and efficiency are key as the quicker infected properties are found and placed under restrictions the sooner we win this battle for NZ farmers. 

“We are nearly 18 months into working to get rid of this disease and it is positive to see a decline in the number of infected dairy farms, however, there are still 61 dairy farms under movement restrictions. 

“We understand the stress and worry involved for those farmers and our priority remains supporting them.”

Mackle said maintaining a collaborative approach is the best option for all farmers.

“By sitting at the table we can ensure that dairy farmers are getting value for money, performance is monitored, processes are improved, costs are scrutinised and that dairy farmers’ views are represented to Government.”

Beef and Lamb chief executive Sam McIvor said while the programme is starting to see more beef farmers, overwhelmingly bull-beef, under restrictions, they are generally risk movements from cattle that have come out of the dairy herd and are terminal because the animals are finished and processed. 

“Also disease tracing shows us that once infected, drystock herds do not readily transmit disease to other herds, increasing the chances of successful eradication over the longer term. 

“We will continue to sit at the table with Government and DairyNZ to ensure this programme has the greatest chance of success and that farmers are represented every step of the way,” McIvor said.


The TAG made 10 recommendations, which the programme has accepted.

It highlighted four recommendations as being the highest priority: 

The surveillance options for defining and declaring biological freedom need to be assessed and the appropriate options selected. 

The scoping, development and implementation of the next phase of the information systems should be fast tracked. 

The proposed surveillance systems for non-dairy systems including cow-calf operations, calf-rearing enterprises and replacement dairy groups be implemented as soon as possible. 

The impact of the surge should be evaluated and feasibility of achieving biological freedom should be re-evaluated when the information management systems are fully functional and enough data has been accrued. 

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