Government admits delays in tracing cattle with Mycoplasma Bovis may have caused disease to spread

The Government has admitted delays in tracing cattle infected with Mycoplasma Bovis could have caused the disease to spread.

The Biosecurity Minister says there have been mistakes, and he's asked for an official progress report on eradication to be brought forward. 

Peter Letham is free to operate normally, after M Bovis animals he had on his property were culled last May.

But he says getting the official cull notice from MPI took months to arrange, causing a lot of uncertainty.

“You’d sooner have three snow falls than go through this performance of mycoplasma,” Letham told Newshub.

“It's not the disease. It's just the way we were treated and the lack of communication with MPI, the lack of leadership from MPI.”

Letham's veterinarian Jo Hallenstein says there have also been big delays in tracking the disease.

“Unfortunately, consistently we hear of failed trace again and again. Or extremely slow trace,” Hallenstein said to Morrah.

MPI has also been indecisive about which animals to kill.

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said: “The delays are not ideal. I accept that mistakes have been made. Of course the programme could run better in hindsight.”

Last month, MPI said an extra 1100 properties needed to be contacted.

The Minister says those properties were identified as possibly having the disease late last year, but follow-up testing didn't happen fast enough; meaning the disease may have spread.

“Look, it may have spread out, but we will be chasing those animal movements from any of those properties,” O’Connor said.

“We've got to move more quickly when they identify possible infected animals.”

The original source of the outbreak has been linked to a single farm near Winton.

However, MPI's confirmed to Newshub nine infected properties can't be traced back to that source.

The property of Peter Letham's daughter is one of them, making him think the problem could be wider than first thought.

“It gives me a suspicion that it might be, yes,” Letham said. “To this day, they (tracing experts) don't know. They still don't know.”

But MPI says "in almost all" of those nine cases, it believes poor record keeping has led to the issues with traceability, rather than there being multiple disease sources.

The Minister says a lot of taxpayer money is involved in eradication. He wants to know whether that's still feasible - a team of experts will update him within the next month.