New online tool to help dairy farmers identify M bovis risk

As the fight to eradicate the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis continues, a new tool has been developed to help dairy farmers assess on-farm risk.

The 'Dairy Risk Assessment' tool is an online questionnaire that helps a farmer to get an accurate understanding of the M bovis risk.

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Designed to be used with veterinarians, it's hoped the the tool can help farmers make informed decisions about managing M bovis risks and reduce the possible spread of the disease on or off a farm.

The New Zealand Veterinary Association's (NZVA) Chief Veterinary Officer, Helen Beattie, said it was a valuable tool at this time of year.

"It's a critical stage in the season when farmers may be considering buying or selling herds, sharemilkers may be considering moving to new contracts, and contract milkers and managers are considering next season's job," she said.

"Other than feeding raw milk, the main risk factor in M bovis spread is stock movement," said Ms Beattie.

New online tool to help dairy farmers identify M bovis risk
Photo credit: Supplied

She advised farmers to talk to their veterinarian about a dairy risk assessment consultation before making decisions about buying a herd, or moving cattle on or off their farm.

During a consultation, farm management practices known to be a biosecurity risk are discussed with the farmer and recorded in the 'Dairy Risk Assessment' tool by the veterinarian. The tool calculates the M bovis risk assessment score and generates a risk rating of low, moderate, or high.

The result is available immediately and can be shared by the veterinarian with the farmer, along with recommendations to reduce risk.

Developed by New Zealand veterinary group XLVets and distributed by the NZVA, the tool has undergone almost a year of beta testing across the country, and has been refined as understanding of the disease has developed. 

It uses known transmission risks, including findings from reports released by the Ministry for Primary Industries about the epidemiology and risk of M bovis spreading in New Zealand.

"We know that the impact on a farming operation of unwittingly introducing M bovis, leading to testing and potential culling, is huge. 

"Using a simple tool like this will hopefully mean the spread of disease is reduced and as few farmers as possible in New Zealand have to endure such stress."