Eradication of M bovis still achievable - report

A new report suggests the eradication of the cattle disease M bovis is still achievable after improvements to the national biosecurity programme.

Authorities have been working to get rid of the disease after it was first found in New Zealand in 2017.

The New Zealand M bovis programme is unique, as no other country has attempted to eradicate the disease.

A Newshub investigation this year identified major shortcomings in the programme and two reviews recommended changes be made.

The Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries also apologised to farmers for the way MPI handled the programme.

A new report from the independent M bovis technical advisory group (TAG) said there had been improvements made.

Minister for Biosecurity Damien O'Connor said the report showed there had been good steps taken to improve the programme since June.
Minister for Biosecurity Damien O'Connor said the report showed there had been good steps taken to improve the programme since June. Photo credit: Newshub

"There are some positive indications of improved operational performance, including a generally downward trend in the total number of infected places, the shorter duration of time that herds are in the casing queue, and that the conversion rate of high-risk traces to confirmed infected properties is lower than projections based on historical conversion rates," it said.

It also shed light on how the disease may have been introduced.

"After considering the available evidence, the TAG remains of the opinion that there has been a single introduction or a small number (3 or 4) of closely related introductions of M bovis into New Zealand in 2015/16 and that M bovis was not endemic prior to this time."

It said it eradication of M bovis was posssible.

"Given currently available data, the TAG concludes that achieving biological freedom from M bovis is feasible provided that the number of undetected infected herds is not large, infection has not established and spread within the non-dairy sector, and that the rate of transmission to new herds is reduced via continued shortening in the intervals from infection to application of movement controls."

"This requires adequate resourcing, appropriate metrics, effective programme management and ongoing support of stakeholders."

Minister for Biosecurity Damien O'Connor said the report showed there had been good steps taken to improve the programme since June and that eradication remained feasible. 

"Biosecurity NZ is working more closely than ever with our M bovis partners DairyNZ and Beef and Lamb to refine the testing regime, compensation system and to help farmers," he said.

"The TAG, as would be expected, makes recommendations for where work is required, including ongoing refinement of the ELISA test and beef surveillance. 

"The 10-year programme is a world-first attempt and we expect to make adjustments. I've asked that the next focus should be mapping out what we expect over the next two years."

More than $100 million has been paid out in compensation to affected farmers so far.

Newshub.

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