Farmers boost biosecurity in wake of cattle disease

Farmers are upping their on-farm biosecurity in the wake of the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak, according to Biosecurity Minister, Damien O'Connor.

Tens of thousands of cows have been destroyed since the disease was discovered in July 2017, and authorities are hoping to eradicate the disease.

Mr O'Connor, who is also the Agriculture Minister, has been speaking with farmers at the New Zealand Agricultural Show in Canterbury over the past two days.

He said many are making greater use of the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme (NAIT).

"The Government has been making changes to ensure NAIT is easier to use and a more effective biosecurity tool following its poor performance during the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak," he said.

"While hundreds of warning letters and more than 70 fines have been issued for those breaking the rules, thousands of farmers have upped their game," said Mr O'Connor.

Around 30 NAIT compliance staff are in the field or completing training over the next month to help support farmers use the system.

Mr O'Connor is warning staff will take a tough stance though on farmers who flout the rules.

"While they will chiefly offer a hand to those who need help to meet their obligations, they will be penalising those breaking the rules," he said

"More and more I'm hearing that the dairy and beef industries want those in the sector who are blatantly disregarding the rules to be dealt with swiftly and firmly," said Mr O'Connor.

Many cattle owners have stayed away from the show this year over M bovis concerns.

However Biosecurity New Zealand is checking that all stock at the show are NAIT compliant.