FARMERS in the Wakanui farming community near Ashburton will be able to farm free of Mycoplasma bovis now their controlled area status has been lifted.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) imposed the controlled area notice (CAN) on the farming community in October 2022 as it endeavoured to eliminate lingering M bovis infection in the area.
The M bovis programme has depopulated, cleaned and disinfected all confirmed infected properties in the area, and revoked the CAN on Friday, March 17.
“Wakanui farmers will be able to farm free of M bovis when we revoke the CAN that was declared to help eliminate infection from the area,” programme director Simon Andrew said.
“These farmers have had to farm with M bovis in their region since December 2017 when the first M bovis farm in Ashburton was discovered.
“As we have not found M bovis outside of Canterbury in more than two years and this has been one of the last remaining pockets of confirmed M bovis infection, we needed to take a different approach to protect farmers and their cattle.
“We will continue to monitor the area closely and are taking a cautious approach, so we can act quickly should there be re-infection in the wider national herd,” Andrew said.
To ensure swift action can be taken, the Five Star Beef feedlot will remain under a restricted place notice for a period while precautionary surveillance activities are undertaken and MPI is assured its actions have been successful.
Andrew said the CAN was an important step towards ensuring the pocket of infection was eliminated.
The eight cattle properties in the high-risk area have been cleared of stock, including the removal of infected and in-contact cattle.
Stringent testing and monitoring for infection in cattle during the past six months in the at-risk CAN area has not identified the presence of M bovis.
“We know the last four and a half years for farmers in this area have not been easy,” Andrew said.
“We recognise the hard work and sacrifices these farmers have made and we are continuing to work closely with them to provide support where needed.”
The programme’s national background surveillance screening is continuing to give confidence that M bovis infection is not widespread.
These programmes will continue for a further four years to quickly detect any last remaining infected farms and gather the necessary evidence to declare freedom from M bovis in New Zealand.
“It’s critical the farming community maintain good on-farm biosecurity standards so the programme can continue to build on the progress made,” Andrew said.
“Keeping NAIT records up to date is crucial to our ability to monitor risk and track down potentially infected animals before M bovis spreads to other farms.
“We are as close to moving to the next phase of eradication as we have ever been, but we could not have got this far in the eradication effort without the hard work and sacrifices made by farmers in Wakanui and across NZ.
“While this is positive news it doesn’t mean the job is done.
“It is likely that we’ll find more infected cattle before we declare success and if we do find any infection, we will deal with the situation quickly and carefully.”
The M bovis eradication programme began in May 2018 and is jointly funded by the government, 68%, and DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ, 32%.
Currently there are three infected properties, and 183,000 cattle have been culled from a total of 278 infected properties since the start of the programme, with $235 million been paid out in 2829 claims to date.