Testing for Mycoplasma bovis spread

  • Hon Damien O’Connor
Agriculture Biosecurity

A testing and tracing regime for Mycoplasma bovis will provide a clearer indication of its spread and potential actions for eradication by the end of February, says Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor. 

In a meeting yesterday, Ministry for Primary Industries officials confirmed three lines of work to determine the spread would begin to return results next month.  

The work includes: 

  • The National Mycoplasma bovis milk surveillance programme – MPI will test three samples of milk from every dairy farm starting on the 1st of February. Results are expected in February and March. 
  • Tracing animals moved from properties under Restricted Place notices – Investigators have followed up almost 1000 contacts for possible links to infected properties – with 39 under Restricted Place notices as testing continues and 17 confirmed infected properties. Tracing and confirming animal movements from the infected properties takes several days for each property and involves using records from National Animal Identification and Tracing, Animal Status Declarations, trucking dockets and interviews with farmers. 
  • Genome sequencing – the tool used to work out whether the strain of Mycoplasma bovis is the same across all infected farms. It takes several months as it involves growing the bacterium from samples. 

Mr O'Connor visited farmers caught in the outbreak in Winton last week, after previously visiting affected South Canterbury properties before Christmas. 

"Farmers have shared their concerns about the speed of the response, started under the previous National Government in July, and how we can contain the spread of the disease,” Mr O’Connor says. 

"I have great sympathy for farmers caught in the outbreak, who face tough decisions to protect their livelihoods. 

"There is a willingness out there to do whatever it takes to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis. This remains our focus." 

Mycoplasma bovis is not a food safety risk. It is a disease that affects animal welfare and production.