NZ Farmer - Overseas experts behind advice to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis

Written by Gerard Hutching

It reads like a who's who of animal health specialists.

Eight of the 11 scientists who recommended the Government opt for Mycoplasma bovis eradication are overseas authorities.

When the Government announced its decision last month, Beef+Lamb NZ chairman Andrew Morrison said it was a "big call" but industry and farmers were chiefly guided by the scientists.

A Federated Farmers spokesman who did not want to be named said he agreed with the reliance on outside advice.

"We've got to trust the experts from overseas because that's where all the experience is."

He said countries were now watching New Zealand closely to observe their efforts. There was concern in Ireland that the disease was spreading and was having a more damaging impact than previously thought.

The Government has decided to cull about 126,000 cattle on top of the 26,000 already being destroyed in an attempt to knock off the disease.

All cattle will be removed from infected properties and most restricted properties, at a cost of $886m in a phased eradication.

Chairman of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) is Dr Scott McDougall, managing director of Cognosco, a company involved in animal health research and development. He was once a scientist with the Dairy Research organisation, now DairyNZ.

Other members include:

* Professor Robin Nicholas, a British consultant, who has been head of the Mycoplasma Reference Laboratory in the UK;

* Professor Glenn Browning director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Animal Health, University of Melbourne;

* Professor Jeff Caswell, a Professor of Pathology, Ontario Vet College;

* Dr Mark Humphris, an Australian dairy veterinary consultant;

* Professor Larry Fox, Professor of Dairy, Washington State University;

* Dr John Morton, a veterinary epidemiological consultant from Geelong;  

* Dr Simon Firestone, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne;

* Dr Ben Madin, an epidemiologist and director of AusVet.

Besides McDougall, the New Zealanders are Dr Stephen Cobb, an independent consultant with SRC Associates, and Professor Nigel French, a Professor of Food Safety & Public Health at Massey University.

The Federated Farmers spokesman said Humphris had been recommended by Australian farmers with whom he worked.

The key to finding out whether the disease was confined to the original farms would be the upcoming round of milk testing.

"If they find new farms, that's going to raise a lot of doubts."

The latest Ministry for Primary Industries update on Tuesday said two more South Island farms had been confirmed as infected: a beef farm in Ranfurly, Otago and a dairy farm near Ashburton, Canterbury. Both properties had been traced from the already known infected farms through animal movements.

At the same time, three Waimate District farms in Canterbury have had their infected property status lifted as they completed the required decontamination and stand-down period.

There are currently 35 known infected farms, and the number of properties under a restricted place notice is 70.