NZ Farmer - Two Taranaki farms under M. bovis notices of direction

Written by Christina Persico

Two Taranaki farms have been issued notices of direction as they are tested for the cattle disease mycoplasma bovis.

Both properties - one a dairy farm and the other a lifestyle block - are near Inglewood, with the first notice of direction issued on June 28 and the second last week. 

It was the first time testing for the bacterial disease has been carried out in the region, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) told Radio New Zealand.

MPI issues a notice of direction when an authorised person believes taking stock and other risk goods from a property could spread the disease.

It does not restrict movement of stock or goods onto a farm but cattle can only move off the farm with a permit.

Other steps may be required including the cleaning and disinfecting of vehicles.

Mike Green, chair of the Taranaki Rural Support Trust, said there was still no trace of M. bovis in the region - the properties were just being tested. 

M. bovis does not affect humans and poses no food safety risk, but it does lead to serious conditions in cattle.

Green said when properties are issued notices the property is divided into a clean zone and a protected zone, with arrivals such as tankers staying in the clean zone. No blood samples have yet been taken.

With 190 farms affected nationwide, that was still less than one per cent of the approximately 24,500 farms in the country, Green said.

But it was important for farmers to look out for each other in a trying time, he said.

"They've had a hell of a season; they've had a hell of about 3-4 seasons including payouts, and it's another challenge being thrown at them.

"Wherever you purchase cattle from, every property has a risk of having had a movement that has transferred cattle around. Treat others the way you want to be treated if you were in the situation."

He said both farms had acted very responsibly, making neighbours aware of the situation before they were legally required to.

The fact that the region had the third-highest number of cattle in the country meant that the arrival of the disease was always a possibility, but if it was going to rear its ugly head, it is usually when the animals are stressed, he said.

"Generally the bacteria will become active when cattle are under stress and the last season with the drought in Taranaki would be the most stressful they've had in their lives."

Awareness and caution were the keys for farmers going forward.

"It's just a matter of identifying where their risk points are in their operation and minimising those risk points.

"At the same time people have to remember that we're still farming; we're still running a business." 

Between 70 and 80 per cent of farms tested return negative results.

Across the country there are 41 properties with active Mycoplasma bovis infections, and 158 under notices of direction.