Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) is a bacterial disease, that can lead to serious conditions in cattle and create an animal welfare and productivity issue. In July 2017, the disease was found in cattle in the South Island. Together with the Government and other sector partners we have decided to attempt to eradicate the disease from New Zealand.
M. bovis and mating
Under the current state of heightened biosecurity in New Zealand, some farmers are looking at changing mating management this season.
Whether you are thinking of combining artificial breeding (AB) and natural mating bulls, extending the AB period to reduce the number of bulls needed, re-starting AB in the last few weeks of mating, or thinking of implementing AB through the whole mating period, consider the risks and benefits of each option. Read more here.
Many farmers will now be buying, selling, and/or moving weaned calves to grazing. There are steps you can take to help protect your animals from M. bovis.
Sending weaned calves to grazing
Stock movements are the highest risk for spreading M. bovis.
Protect your calves from exposure to M.bovis by preventing nose to nose contact with cattle from other sources. Discuss your expectations with everyone who is involved in the transport and care of your calves once they leave the home farm.
- Transport - Ask your transporter to avoid mixing your calves with other cattle in holding yards or on the truck.
- NAIT - Make sure all your calves have their NAIT tags in their ears and promptly record all movements.
- If your calves are being grazed on a property with cattle from other sources, measures must be taken to completely prevent your calves from coming into contact with them.
- Visit the Biosecurity for Grazing Properties page to learn about the risks and solutions for specific areas on the grazing block.
- Graziers can use this Communication Plan to help them get organised and protect their property.
Buying and selling weaned calves
Stock movements are the highest risk for spreading M. bovis.
- Know the source
- Purchase from as few sources as possible.
- Deal directly with the source farm or via an agent.
- Ask about any M. bovis test results available for the farm.
- Ask if the farm is subject to any M. bovis tracing by MPI.
- Ask about the stock trading practices for the farm.
- Ask about the source of all milk fed to calves on the farm.
- Ask if all stock movement records are up to date and recorded in NAIT.
- Ask about cow and calf health on the farm for the past two seasons, and use the pre-purchase checklist.
- Purchase only calves with NAIT tags and promptly record all movements.
- Ask your transporter to avoid mixing calves with other cattle in holding yards or on the truck.
- Keep purchased calves isolated from your main group for seven days and monitor them for signs of disease.
- If you are selling, be prepared to provide the information above to people buying your calves.
Spring bulk milk surveillance programme
This spring, all dairy companies are supporting the M. bovis response by testing every dairy farm supplying milk. With the ultimate aim of eradicating M. bovis from New Zealand, this surveillance programme is essential to providing further assurance of previous non-detects. It will help to identify any clusters of disease that have gone undetected so far.
M. bovis can hide in an infected cow, not showing up until weeks or months after the animal has contracted the disease. The spring months are the best time to test for M. bovis because infected animals are more likely to shed the bacteria after a stressful period, such as calving and the start of lactation.
All test samples will be taken as part of the normal milk collection process. The tanker operator will take the samples and farmers will not be required to do anything additional. Testing will begin approximately 4 weeks following the beginning of supply and samples will be collected every two weeks, up to a total of six samples over 12 weeks.
Once the programme is completed, farmers with “not-detected” results will receive an email from their dairy company confirming the disease has not been found in their samples. Farmers can expect to receive an email early December.
If the result is a positive detect, farmers will be contacted immediately by MPI with information about next steps.
For more information read the spring bulk milk testing FAQs or get in touch with your local dairy company representative.
Protect your farm and animals
You can protect your farm and animals by undertaking some simple biosecurity practices on farm.
Complete the Biosecurity WOF, developed with farmers and vets, work through this guide and develop on on-farm biosecurity plan.
The biggest risk for spread of M. bovis is through direct animal contact, focus on preventing contact with cattle from other herds. If purchasing new stock, read the pre-purchase checklist.
Complete NAIT records
Always complete your NAIT records and make sure if you have had movement over the last month they are correctly recorded. Knowing where your cows have been is crucial to understanding and preventing the spread of disease.
If moving animals for grazing - check the grazing property’s biosecurity health status. All M. bovis infected properties are under Restricted Place Notices under the Biosecurity Act. Ensure that the grazing property has good biosecurity measures in place, such as preventing your stock from having nose to nose contact with stock on the farm or neighbouring properties.
Check your boundary fences are secure
Put in double fencing at least two metres apart to stop nose to nose contact between you and your neighbour’s stock. Permanent is best but in the short term it can be simply putting a reel up if your neighbour’s stock are going to be in the adjacent paddock.
If bringing in supplementary feed - there is no risk of M. bovis infection from bringing in hay or baleage from uninfected farms. If the feed is coming from a farm under a Notice of Direction or a Restricted Place Notice, confirm that it meets any conditions on the Notice.
Contractors and machinery on farm
The risk of spreading M. bovis bacteria between farms on machinery is low. However, it is good biosecurity practice to have a “clean on, clean off” policy for both machinery and people, which will protect your farm business from weeds, pests, and diseases. You should expect machinery to arrive clean to your property, and expect the machinery to be cleaned before it leaves your property for the next job. Disinfection should be used after cleaning on equipment and boots/gear that have been in contact with stock and/or effluent. Check out the cleaning and disinfection poster for more information.
What is Mycoplasma bovis?
- is a bacterial disease
- is commonly found in cattle all over the world, including in Australia
- it does not infect humans and presents no food safety risk. There is no concern about eating meat, milk and milk products
- it does lead to serious conditions in cattle and therefore constitutes an animal welfare and productivity issue
- it spreads from animal to animal through close contact. Between farms it spreads through the movement of animals that are infected but may not be showing symptoms. It is also potentially spread on contaminated equipment and the feeding of untreated milk to calves. It is not windborne.
- while some of the conditions can be treated, affected cattle will always be carriers of the disease
- the disease does not affect sheep or cause illness in goats although it is thought goats could carry and transmit it.
How does it affect cows?
- untreatable mastitis in dairy and beef cows
- severe pneumonia in up to 30% of infected calves, starting as a hacking cough
- ear infections in calves, the first sign typically being one droopy ear, progressing to ear discharges and in some cases a head tilt
- swollen joints and lameness (severe arthritis/synovitis) in all ages of cattle
- know the signs to look out for, download the 'Signs to look out for' poster. If stock show unusual levels of mastitis, abortions or present with arthritis or pneumonia, contact your vet.
Working to eradicate M. bovis
The decision has been made to continue to focus on eradicating M. bovis from New Zealand. We believe that we have a chance to get rid of it for good by undertaking phased eradication.
Phased eradication will mean continuing to trace all potentially affected cattle, and testing and culling those herds with infected animals in them. This will continue until regular surveillance finds no further evidence of the disease. By phased, we mean that it will take place over a number of years. We expect to do most of the eradication work in 1-2 years. It will be done in cooperation with affected farmers to allow flexibility around timing of culling to offset production losses.
Read more about the decision to eradicate and what it means for you.
Movement control notices
Moving animals for feeding
Surveillance testing = free to move
Cattle that have undergone "surveillance testing" are very low risk for spreading the disease. They can be managed on a grazing block just like any other cattle group – separately, with secure fencing, and prevention of mixing with cattle from other sources. Avoid grazing on adjacent paddocks or use double fencing.
Notice of Direction = restricted movement with permits
NODs are under movement restrictions, but can go to a grazing block under permit. Each ICP manager will help their farmers to do this.
Grazing block NODs
A grazing block that takes cattle from a NOD will become a NOD, but there are options to limit the NOD to parts of a grazing block; and to get back to normal quickly.
Any farm under a NOD will not be financially disadvantaged by it.
For all movements, NAIT must be used correctly.
Please ensure all your stock have NAIT ear tags. This is your responsibility. If you are a grazier with feed available and would like to assist, please contact MPI on 0800 00 83 33 or email MBovis2017_Liaison@mpi.govt.nz.
Farmers under NOD who need to graze
Farmers under NODs should contact their ICP manager to arrange the permit. The process is:
- Farmer locates grazing that will accept NOD cattle and contacts ICP manager.
- MPI visits the location and assesses fence security and the suitability of the property/paddock(s) to contain possible disease.
- The permit may be granted within a couple of days if all information is provided quickly and correctly and there are no problems.
- The cattle will be moved to the grazing block by permitted transporters. The NOD goes with the animals, and will apply to all or part of the grazing block depending on the size and the location of the cattle.
- The cattle will be unloaded using portable yards if there are multiple herds at the property; MPI will also compensate for double fencing and any equipment needed to manage the NOD animals as a separate group.
Farmers should contact their ICP manager or Rural Support Trust lead to assist them with getting their cows to feed.
What is a Restricted Place Notice?
- Restricted Place Notices (RPNs) are issued to properties that are believed to have, or are suspected of having Mycoplasma bovis
- The RPN prohibits all unauthorised movements of stock and other risk goods ontoand off the farm to minimise the likelihood of the disease spreading from the property.
- Any movement of cattle requires a permit from MPI.
- Transport vehicles are required to follow a cleaning and disinfection process when they leave a Restricted Place.
- AsureQuality staff are ensuring cleaning and disinfecting and permit protocols are being met.
- All incidents of non-compliance are followed up by MPI.
What is a Notice of Direction?
- Notice of directions (NoDs) are issued to farms when an inspector or authorised person considers that movement of stock and other risk goods from a property poses a risk of spreading Mycoplasma bovis. For example, this can be when animals from infected properties have been moved to that property but testing has not yet taken place or results of testing are pending.
- The NoD is aimed at preventing further spread and does not restrict movement of stock or goods on to the farm.
- Cattle can only move off the farm with a permit.
- Other steps such as cleaning and disinfection of vehicles may be required.
- All incidents of non-compliance are followed up by MPI.
M. bovis compensation
If you are a farmer directly affected by M. bovis, we have a a team that can help you with compensation.
The DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ Compensation Assistance Team can help you with:
- understanding whether you are eligible for compensation
- clarify what losses you can claim for
- working through the compensation claim forms with you
- supporting you through the compensation claim process
This is a free service that is supported by MPI, run independently by DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ.
Call us on 0800 322 281 and we will put you in touch with a compensation assistant to help step you through the process and ensure you have the answers you need. Alternatively you can email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
To help you with your compensation claim check out the M. bovis Compensation Guide.
- Looking to buy more cattle? Read the M. bovis pre-purchase checklist
- Mycoplasma bovis advice on using imported or local semen
- Managing service bulls
- Minimising the risks from Mycoplasma bovis at cattle shows and events
- M. bovis - calf club day advice