Dairy farmers are worried about the risk of Mycoplasma bovis spreading to other farms during Gypsy Day later this year.
Industry plans to reduce the disease risk will include measures for the annual day during the end of May when sharemilkers and their herds shift to new farms around the country to begin new jobs for the 2018-19 milking season.
Cow movement on this scale has farmers concerned that it might cause more outbreaks of the cattle disease, confirmed on two South Canterbury farms last July and since found on 18 farms.
Talks had begun late last year to find ways to reduce the risk of spreading the disease to other farms, DairyNZ general manager of policy and advocacy Carol Barnao said. “Everybody is focused on Gypsy Day and what it meant for the industry.
“We are mentally thinking within DairyNZ that we need to have something in place by the end of February specifically for that.
“Have I got an answer for it right now? No we haven’t, but we’re certainly giving it a lot of thought in terms of possibilities going forward.”
Federated Farmers president Katie Milne said they would have a better idea about guidelines around Gypsy Day once the results came in from the nationwide milk testing programme that was underway.
This would allow the industry to identify which farms had a low risk of the disease. In the meantime, the industry would keep educating farmers about warning signs of the disease and to follow biosecurity guidelines.
Milne said sharemilkers had to ensure all their cattle records were in order before they were moved off the property. The busyness that came with Gypsy Day was no excuse.
“We have to get back to those basics of remembering. It starts when the animal was born and then it’s not left to the last minute.”
The rules were “explicitly clear” about animals that were being moved. Any cattle shifting off a farm to another had to have an electronic ID tag and a completed animal status declaration form for food safety, Milne said.
“That is the big one that we all have to get back in our heads: get your records sorted.”
If sharemilkers followed these procedures then there was a much lower chance of putting their herd at risk, she said.
“You are eliminating as much risk as you can.”
Milne said they were in the process of organising more meetings in the South Island to keep farmers up to date with the latest information about M. bovis. She expected Gypsy Day would come up as a topic of discussion.
“People will be thinking ‘Hell what am I going to do? I have Gypsy Day coming, is there anything extra that I have to do?’ There will be questions around, ‘Am I allowed to walk them down the road?”
Farms that had restrictions in place would also be well aware of Gypsy Day and Milne expected those farmers to follow protocols such as making sure no cattle were on roadside paddocks to eliminate the possibility of contact with passing cattle.
Variable order sharemilkers who were shifting younger stock to a farm where there was a herd should use quarantine paddocks to eliminate the risks of contamination.
According to the Ministry for Primary Industries, there were 17 properties confirmed as positive for the disease. These are mainly in the Oamaru area with additional positive properties in Hawke’s Bay and Southland and Ashburton.
The disease is spread by nose-to-nose contact with infected cows and calves drinking infected milk.
For now, the message around following biosecurity remained, Barnao said.
Barnao recommended farmers talk to transport operators to make sure the trucks carrying stock were clean and no effluent from the trucks was dumped onto farmland.
An MPI spokeswoman said it was “very aware” of the importance of identifying animals that had potentially been exposed to the disease prior to Gypsy Day.
“Our current focus is on the tracing of animals on and off known infected properties with a view to determining the full picture of Mycoplasma bovis distribution in New Zealand. This information will be enhanced with the recently announced extension of surveillance activity across the country.”