Mycoplasma bovis: the supposed facts don’t line up

[With the re-organisation of the New Zealand rural media and the demise of NZ Farmer for which I previously wrote, this is the first of a new series of fortnightly articles I will be writing for Farmers Weekly and also published at Whereas my articles in Stuff  (online and in their hardcopy newspapers ) are about rural issues, but largely for an urban audience, the Farmers Weekly articles are primarily for farmers and those more directly involved in rural matters.]

A key message from the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) has been “generally prolonged or repeated contact with infected animals is required for the disease to be transmitted” (MPI website). Another key message has been that the disease has only been here since the end of 2015.

Bringing those two supposed facts together, it seems surprising that the disease has progressed so quickly in just two years from the so-called index farm in Southland to at least 52 infected farms, with many additional farms still being traced.

Surely, one of the two supposed facts cannot be correct. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, Mycoplasma bovis | 2 Comments

NZ dairy challenged by need for strategic reset

[This article is the first of a fortnightly series I will be writing for Stuff (online) and associated regional papers ( formerly Fairfax, but now under the Stuff banner). As such, they are largely about bringing agricultural and rural issues to an urban audience. I am also writing fortnightly different articles) for Farmers Weekly, aimed more at farmers.]

There is great unease within the New Zealand dairy industry. Many farmers feel that the urban community plus a range of events have turned against them. Most are still proud to be dairy farmers but there is lots of stress and anxiety.

This stress and anxiety is despite farmers receiving good prices for their milk in the last two years. This has followed two preceding years when most farmers made losses and some share milkers were wiped out. Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, Land and water | 6 Comments

Mycoplasma bovis: battle fatigue is growing but Government claims to be resolute

Last week I was in Wellington speaking to Federated Farmers Dairy Council.    It gave me an opportunity to assess persistent rumours that Government and MPI were losing confidence in relation to the Mycoplasma eradication battle.

I heard both Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor say that they were resolute in their determination to eradicate the disease. Whether or not public positions and private concerns coincide could be another matter. Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, Mycoplasma bovis | 10 Comments

Mycoplasma bovis can transfer to sheep, goats, deer, pigs and poultry

Currently, there is a fervent ‘behind-the-scenes’ debate as to whether eradication of Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand is feasible.

It is well over a month, possibly close to two months, since the international Technical Advisory Group (TAG) voted six to four in favour of eradication being feasible. This would have been based on information supplied to them by MPI and assessed over a telephone hook-up. New evidence since then provides further complexity and concerns.

First, there is extensive evidence from overseas that Mycoplasma bovis can transfer between species and that it can infect sheep, goats, pigs, deer and even poultry. Strictly speaking, this is not new evidence as it was sitting there all along in the scientific literature and easily found. However, the implications of this within the New Zealand environment have not been considered to date.

Second, there is a new line of evidence (not yet published) of a likely outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis in the South Island back in 2014. Both of these issues have potential to  complicate the eradication campaign.

In this article, my focus is on the potential for cross-species infection. I will be writing about the new evidence for earlier arrival in a follow-up article. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, Meat Industry, Mycoplasma bovis | 3 Comments

Mycoplasma bovis: how long has it been here?

A key question for MPI and Government to address is how long has Mycoplasma bovis been in New Zealand. The answer to that question, together with MPI’s capacity to upscale their operational capacity, will largely determine whether or not eradication is going to be successful.

If, as the Government now believes, Mycoplasma bovis first arrived here around December 2015 or January 2016 on the Zeestraten property in Southland, then it is reasonable to hope but not necessarily expect that the eradication program will be successful.  But if it was here prior to that, then eradication becomes an increasingly long shot. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, Mycoplasma bovis | 7 Comments

A smorgasbord of agricultural issues

[For the last three years I have been writing fortnightly columns for NZFarmer, which is delivered free to all New Zealand farmers. However the agricultural press in New Zealand is undergoing major change. One part of that change is that Stuff (formerly Fairfax) is now moving towards a digital focus and will cease to publish the weekly NZFarmer. This was my farewell column  to NZFarmer.]

With the impending demise of NZ Farmer, this will be my last article published here. So, I had to give a lot of thought as to what I wanted to say.

Right now, we are surrounded by forces for change. There are so many topics that could be covered. So, I have decided to provide a smorgasbord of key issues. Continue reading

Posted in A1 and A2 milk, Agribusiness, China, Dairy, Meat Industry, Mycoplasma bovis | 1 Comment

Mycoplasma bovis: European semen is the likely source

It is now increasingly evident that European-sourced semen, imported legally but containing live Mycoplasma bovis that survived the antibiotic cocktail, is the likely source of the organism in New Zealand dairy.

The evidence suggests it struck first in Southland, but there is a likelihood that the same semen has struck on other farms, and then spread from there via progeny.

It is also likely that Mycoplasma bovis arrived in New Zealand via this semen by late 2014 or even earlier.  This is an important issue because so far MPI has only focused on events since the end of 2015. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, Mycoplasma bovis, Uncategorized | 12 Comments