Mycoplasma bovis eradication still on the table as milk testing results flow in

Initial results from the first round of milk testing from all producing dairy farms for Mycoplasma bovis indicate eradication of the disease remains a viable option as work to contain it ramps up, says Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor. 

The first round of the joint industry MPI surveillance programme is near completion with no positive detections.  

Tests have been completed on the tanker milk from 9100 dairy farms without a positive detection. The remaining tests will be completed early next week. 

“This is a good result and gives us confidence we are on the right track as we hunt down this disease,” says Mr O’Connor.  

“However, there is still a big job to do to determine the extent of the spread – we have two rounds of discard milk testing to complete. The discard milk comes from animals displaying an illness of some type and may paint a different picture.” 

In addition to the milk testing, MPI is working with urgency to build a complete picture of the scale and location of the disease in New Zealand to fully inform whether eradication from the country is feasible and economically viable.

 “MPI’s own tracing programme is a critical part of this. To date a vast web of some 1500 farms has been connected from animal movements, and more than 85,000 samples from at-risk herds have been tested. Clearly most of these farms have been ruled out from having the disease but the task is intensive and MPI has accelerated this work through additional laboratory and field capacity.” 

This work includes boosting on-farm blood testing teams. 

The effort to date has exposed one significant ‘hub’ of infection in Southland. MPI’s tracing programme has been made more difficult by the fact there appears to have been significant un-recorded movement of young calves around this hub. 

MPI will shortly start a public campaign encouraging farmers to report any at-risk animal movements that are not captured in recording systems such as NAIT. 

“Despite the complexity, we remain committed to getting rid of Mycoplasma bovis if at all possible. We know we’re up against a hard deadline. 

“It is vital farmers who have purchased animals they believe might be at risk, and who have not been contacted by MPI already, get in touch with the response team immediately on 0800 80 99 66.

 “We need this information to locate any infection out there and get rid of it. It is crucial for the future livelihoods of all New Zealand dairy and beef farmers.”

The response at a glance:

  • There are 23 infected properties – 22 in the lower South Island and one in the Hawke’s Bay
  • There are currently 48 farms that have been made a Restricted Place under the Biosecurity Act – meaning all risk goods including animals cannot be moved on or off the farm
  • The 23 infected properties are included in the 48 farms under Restricted Place Notice
  • There are also 110 farms that have been issued Notices of Direction (NoD) – where the farms are not confirmed infected, but are at high-risk. These properties have restrictions on the movement of risk goods off the farm
  • 1500 trace farms – that have either supplied animals to infected farms or received animals from infected farms
  • Since July MPI has held 11 public meetings with around 3000 in attendance in total
  • A further 53 farmer meetings have been held or are scheduled around the country to inform farmers about the National Surveillance Programme, the wider response and how to protect their farms through on-farm biosecurity measures. Around 13,000 people are expected to attend these meetings. 

Full information on Mycoplasma bovis and the response is at