Mycoplasma bovis


9 min read

Eradication programme Reduce the risk Effects on dairy cattle Protect calves Resources for dairy farmers Getting support

Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) is a bacteria that affects cattle, impacting the health, welfare and productivity of infected animals. The disease spreads when cows come into close contact with each other or through contaminated equipment.

Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) can cause serious harm to cows and affect their ability to produce milk. Protect your farm and animals by undertaking good biosecurity practices on-farm. If your farm is affected by M. bovis, there's support available, including financial assistance.

The M. bovis Eradication Programme

In July 2017, M. bovis was found on a dairy farm near Oamaru, this was the first case in New Zealand. In May 2018, a decision was made to try and eradicate this disease. DairyNZ is an active partner in the 10-year Mycoplasma bovis Eradication Programme with MPI and Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

On 1 November 2023, OSPRI took over surveillance operations for the M. bovis Programme, and it is proposed that OSPRI will take over full management of the Programme under a National Pest Management Plan (NPMP) from 1 July 2024.

For dairy farmers, a new reduced NPMP levy will finance the remaining programme.

Visit the MPI Mycoplasma bovis info hub for the latest updates and information.

Reduce the risk of introducing M. bovis

  • Avoid direct animal contact with cattle outside your herd
  • Before you move stock, ensure you complete NAIT records and check the biosecurity health status of grazing properties
  • Purchasing new stock? Read the Pre-purchase Checklist (PDF)
  • Secure boundary fences and better still, double fence at least two metres apart to stop nose-to-nose contact with neighbouring stock
  • Infected raw milk is the highest risk pathway for M.Bovis transmission
  • Traceability of raw milk is vitally important. Ensure any milk or feed you sell or purchase has a completed Feed Declaration Form

How M. bovis affects dairy cattle

  • Untreatable mastitis
  • 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 discharge and in some cases a head tilt
  • Abortions, early calves or small calves
  • Swollen joints and lameness (severe arthritis/synovitis) in all ages of cattle.

Know the signs and symptoms to look out for (PDF)

If your stock shows unusual levels of mastitis, abortions or present with arthritis or pneumonia, contact your vet immediately.

Protect your calves

  • Calves can contract M. bovis through direct contact with infected cattle, or by consuming milk from infected cows
  • Low risk milk choices are calf milk replacer powder, acidified milk, or pasteurised milk
  • Purchase calves from as few sources as possible
  • Deal directly with the source farm or via an agent
  • Ask about any M. bovis history available for the farm
  • Ask if all stock movement records are up to date and recorded in NAIT
  • Only purchase calves with NAIT tags and record all movements within 48 hours
  • 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.

Download the DairyNZ guide: M. bovis Precautions for Calf Rearing for more information on care and feeding.

Getting support

If you are a farmer directly affected by M. bovis, we have a team that can help you with compensation and support.

The DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ Compensation Assistance Team (DBCAT) can help you:

  • Understanding whether you are eligible
  • Clarify what losses you can claim for
  • Work through the compensation claim forms and the claim process

This free service is supported by MPI and run independently by DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ.

Call us on 0800 322 281 or email dbcat@dairynz.co.nz or dbcat@beeflambnz.com.

To help you with your compensation claim check out the following:

If you or someone you know in the farming community is struggling, visit our get help page for resources and emergency phone numbers.

Last updated: Aug 2023

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