Mycoplasma bovis

In July 2017, the bacterial infection Mycoplasma bovis was found in cattle in the Oamaru area of the South Island. The Government has agreed with dairy and beef sector partners to attempt to eradicate the disease from New Zealand.

Eradication announced on 28 May 2018

The Government along with the dairy and beef industries have agreed that an attempt will be made to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis. This means we're trying to completely get rid of Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand's dairy and beef herds. We expect to do most of the eradication work in one to two years.

Information for consumers

Mycoplasma bovis is a bacterium that causes illness in cattle, including udder infections (mastitis), abortion, pneumonia and arthritis. It does not infect humans and presents no food safety risk.

The disease is found worldwide and is not considered a disease of relevance to trade by the World Animal Health Organisation (the OIE). There are no regulatory restrictions for meat and dairy products due to Mycoplasma bovis.

Extensive national surveillance is underway to determine the distribution of the disease in New Zealand. To prevent further spread of the disease, the Ministry for Primary Industries has put in place strict controls and is developing plans with farmers for animals from the known infected farms.


UPDATES AND MEDIA RELEASES

21 June 2018 – Cabinet Paper on the eradication decision released

Media releases

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Situation report

Check our 'latest update' – infographic [PDF, 1.1 MB]

The current number of 'active' Infected Properties (quarantined under movement restrictions) as at 21 June 2018 is 42.

The regional breakdown of total Infected Properties (IPs) from the start of the response is below. The number of 'active' IPs (some have since been depopulated, cleaned and had their restrictions lifted) is in brackets.

Total infected properties since the start of the response:

  • Hawke's Bay (Hastings) – 2 (1 active)
  • Manawatu (Pahiatua) – 1 (1 active)
  • Waikato (Cambridge) – 2 (2 active)
  • Wairarapa – 1 (1 active)
  • Canterbury – 21 (17 active)
  • Otago – 8 (5 active)
  • Southland – 17 (15 active)

All infected properties are under quarantine controls restricting the movement of stock and equipment on and off those farms to contain the disease.


Mycoplasma bovis information roadshow

The cattle industry and MPI are running meetings across the country to give communities information about Mycoplasma bovis. Come and hear the latest on the eradication effort, what it means for you, and how you can reduce the risk for your farm.

What is Mycoplasma bovis?

Mycoplasma bovis is a bacterium that can cause a range of quite serious conditions in cattle, including mastitis that doesn’t respond to treatment – pneumonia, arthritis and late-term abortions.

The disease may be dormant in an animal causing no disease at all. But in times of stress (for example, calving, drying-off, transporting, or being exposed to extreme weather) it may shed bacteria in milk and nasal secretions. As a result, other animals may be infected and become ill or carriers themselves.

This is the first time it has been found in New Zealand. The bacteria is an Unwanted Organism under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

Mycoplasma bovis is not listed with the OIE (the world animal health organisation) and doesn't present a trade risk for New Zealand animal products. Internationally, the disease is managed by farmers through:

  • good biosecurity practices on their farms
  • careful selection of replacement stock and breeding bulls
  • keeping herds in a good state of health.

No food safety risk

Mycoplasma bovis is not a food safety risk. It is a disease that affects animal welfare and production. It affects only cattle, including dairy cows and beef cattle. It is common in many food-producing nations where infected animals that aren’t showing symptoms are processed for human consumption.

Cattle that are slaughtered in New Zealand as part of measures to control Mycoplasma bovis are processed in line with standard procedures. Before leaving the farm, they are assessed by vets to confirm they are fit for transport. At the processing plants, MPI veterinarians assess the health of each animal before slaughter.

Any animals that are sick, severely injured, or have any medication in their system are not processed for human consumption. This is a requirement of New Zealand law. All animals are also examined after slaughter to ensure the meat is safe and suitable for consumption.

How is it spread?

On farm: Mycoplasma bovis is spread from animal to animal through close contact and bodily fluids, for example, mucus and also milking equipment. Calves can be infected through drinking milk from infected cows. Urine and faeces are not regarded as significant transmitters of the disease, but the bacterium does survive for longer in a moist environment such as in piles of moist faeces or wet bedding material.

Off farm: The disease is mostly spread through movement of cattle from farm to farm. Movement restrictions preventing the spread of stock off infected properties are the most appropriate measures to contain Mycoplasma bovis.  

Farm equipment may play a role in the spread of the disease, especially equipment that comes into direct contact with infected animals such as artificial insemination instruments.

Vehicles pose very little biosecurity risk. It is absolutely safe for trucks to move from infected farms to other properties. All infected farms are under strict legal controls under the Biosecurity Act which require comprehensive cleaning and disinfection before leaving the property.

What to do when moving cattle

If you're planning to move your cattle to a new farm, guidelines are available. 

Find out more

The work we're doing to contain the disease

MPI, animal production industry bodies, veterinarians and farmers are working together on a large-scale biosecurity response to the disease. 

We're focusing on determining the scale and distribution of the disease across the country, containing any risk of spread from infected properties and ultimately making a decision on the best way to manage it in future. 

We are confident Mycoplasma bovis is not well established in New Zealand. The testing of milk from every dairy farm in the country, combined with our surveillance work tracing every possible movement of animals from infected farms, has shown the disease is not widespread but is limited to a network of farms connected by animal movements. 

Notices to control the disease

To control the disease, we're issuing 2 types of legal notices to farms that are affected and farms that are suspected of being affected. The notices – Restricted Place Notices and Notices of Direction – are to restrict the movement of any risk goods, including animals, out of these properties. To make sure the requirements of the notices are followed, MPI follows up all incidents of non-compliance.

A map showing properties under legal controls

This map shows properties (as at 30 May 2018) under:

  • Restricted Place Notices
  • Infected Places Notices
  • Notices of Direction.

Download the map [PDF, 63 KB]

Culling animals to prevent further spread

Oamaru area – 2017

In October 2017, MPI made the decision to remove and cull animals from affected properties in the Oamaru area to prevent further spread of the disease. We made this decision after doing tens of thousands of tests.

This was completed at the end of December 2017.

All premises, transportation vehicles, and equipment involved in the depopulation followed a strict decontamination and disinfection process to reduce any risk of the disease spreading.

Work is now underway to clean and disinfect the affected farms and repopulate them. 

All infected farms – 2018 

On 26 March 2018, MPI made the decision to cull all cattle on the 28 infected farms in New Zealand. This involves some 22,300 animals either going to slaughter at processing plants or being culled on-farm if they are not healthy enough for processing. 

On 28 May 2018, the Government agreed with dairy and beef sector partners to attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand. All cattle on infected farms and future infected farms, plus some high-risk farms under movement controls, will need to be culled. This means about 126,000 cattle from about 190 farms – most in one to two years. The timing of any cull will be worked through with individual farmers to minimise impacts on production.

MPI will work closely with affected farmers to plan the logistics of this large exercise. All affected farmers will be compensated for their verifiable losses. Once farms are depopulated and cleaned, it will be possible to start re-building a disease-free herd from scratch.

We're taking this action now as extensive milk testing and farm tracing has provided confidence that Mycoplasma bovis is:

  • not endemic in New Zealand
  • limited to a network of farms connected by animal movements.

Industry support for depopulation 

DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, and Beef+Lamb New Zealand support MPI's decisions. They also recognise that this is a difficult time for the farmers involved.

The industry organisations believe that the measures are necessary to protect all New Zealand cattle farms from the disease. New Zealand is one of the few countries where Mycoplasma bovis is not found naturally. Because of this, the industry groups support measures to keep it that way.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about Mycoplasma bovis:

For support, contact your local Rural Support Trust:

  • call 0800 78 72 54 (0800 RURAL HELP)
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