While the biosecurity focus is on Mycoplasma bovis, other unwanted diseases could be relatively easier to eradicate, Northern Southland veterinarian Andrew Cochrane reports.

These are interesting times. Mycoplasma bovis has made it to our shores and we are doing everything we can to eradicate it, the tracing programme meant to help in such instances has failed us (or we have failed it), the Ministry for Primary Industries is taking a lot of the blame for letting another disease across our borders and yet many of you are about to buy weaner calves with little knowledge of their disease status or history…

Despite popular opinion (often by those who haven’t done enough research to form such an opinion), MPI are doing a pretty good job, under very difficult circumstances, to trace and control a disease that most beef-producing countries in the world have given up on.

As always there will be lessons learnt and things that could have been done better, but big-picture-wise – the response has been pretty good. What surprises me is that we have other diseases here in New Zealand that would be much easier to eradicate and one which is costing the beef industry more than M bovis likely ever

would. Yet nothing is done, sure many of you have eradicated this disease from your own properties, but many more haven’t, and animals are still sold at the sale yards with no known status.

But eradication won’t happen while any scheme is
voluntary – too many farmers prefer to keep their heads in the sand unless they are hit in the pocket directly.

I’m talking about bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) of course, but for those of you with sheep, the same could be said about Brucella ovis, which we have identified on our clients’ farms for the third year running.

With full support and buy-in from farmers/industry these diseases could both be eradicated from NZ within a couple of years. Gone, see ya later, good riddance.

But will this happen, unlikely – or at least not without government involvement.

Mandatory testing of all cattle (as has been done for Tb) would see BVD gone from our shores quick smart – with no wildlife vectors and accurate tests available it would be a walk in the park compared to Tb and M bovis. But eradication won’t happen while any scheme is voluntary – too many farmers prefer to keep their heads in the sand unless they are hit in the pocket directly.

So what can we do?

Start by looking at your own farm biosecurity and the status of animals in your own herd. Look at your boundaries – if you have roads/rivers/tree blocks as the boundary you may be in luck but if you have across-the-fence access to neighbours, there lies a risk. If buying stock, ask some tough questions, demand to see certificates proving animals are free of disease – don’t just take their word for it. Get strict with your stock agent – explain that you won’t accept cattle without proof that they are BVD-free. Talk to your neighbours – it may be that between you and a couple of neighbours you have some isolation due to natural features or roads – discuss this with them and put a plan in place to eradicate BVD or other disease and keep it out.

Start lobbying your industry bodies (Fed Farmers/Beef + Lamb) for the need to eradicate BVD from NZ – if enough noise is made, progress can be generated. NZ is well-placed to eradicate this disease yet we are falling behind the United Kingdom, where Scotland has begun a government-subsidised BVD-eradication programme

and England a voluntary one.

Regardless of the threat, improving onfarm biosecurity will help keep unwanted disease out. This doesn’t necessarily mean having a foot bath at every entrance to the farm, but asking the right questions when bringing stock on to your farm should be a bare minimum.