Cook Strait controls for Mycoplasma bovis

  • Hon Damien O’Connor
Agriculture Biosecurity

Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity Damien O’Connor has today announced an intensive programme to track cattle movements across Cook Strait to help control the further spread of cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

“The previous National Government’s complete failure to enforce the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme has promoted poor farming practices and seriously compromised our response to the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.

“At the weekend I received the NAIT Review report, which shows the system is not working well enough. Only 57 per cent of farmers who record their animal movements do so within the required 48 hours. I’m told overall farm-to-farm recording may be as low as 30 per cent.

“NAIT is an important part of our biosecurity net and it needs improvement.

“Mycoplasma bovis is mostly spread through movement of infected cattle from farm to farm. This means cattle traceability between properties is critical to finding all affected animals, and stopping further infection.

“Operation Cook Strait is necessary if we are to have any chance of controlling this disease. There is no quick exit strategy for Mycoplasma bovis and farmers complying with NAIT is a bottom line for any option. 

“Eradication is what everybody would like but it has to be technically possible, practically achievable and affordable for all. If we can’t improve NAIT compliance, we can’t get past go. 

“Operation Cook Strait will be based where trucks stop in the upper South Island and will be run by the Ministry for Primary Industries. It will check that farmers moving cattle from the South to the North Island comply with their legal obligations under the NAIT Act. Non-compliance will result in fines.  

“It begins today and is likely to be extended to other parts of the country. 

“I asked officials to look at where we can improve NAIT compliance and what more can be done to limit the spread of Mycoplasma bovis. I welcome this move by MPI who will help drive this but farmers and industry need to be at the forefront of NAIT compliance. 

“I remain hopeful Mycoplasma bovis can be eradicated from New Zealand,” Damien O’Connor says. 

Note to editors: OSPRI is the management agency responsible for implementing NAIT. OSPRI and MPI will release a NAIT discussion document for public consultation within the next couple of months.