Published: Wed, May 30, 2018
Medical | By

Government set to eradicate mycoplasma bovis

Government set to eradicate mycoplasma bovis

Found in Europe and the USA, the bacteria can cause cows to develop mastitis, pneumonia, arthritis and other diseases. A $16m "loss of production" cost will be borne by affected farmers.

The decision was taken to "protect the base of our economy - the farming sector", Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Mycoplasma bovis has been detected on more than three dozen farms since it was first detected in New Zealand past year, leading to the slaughter of about 26,000 cattle.

New Zealand's dairy sector contributes about NZ$7.8 billion annually to the country's gross domestic product and accounts for around a fifth of the country's exports. The dairy herd of the country reportedly has around 6.6 million cows.

The disease, which causes udder infections, pneumonia and arthritis in cows but has no effect on milk and meat for human consumption, was first discovered on a farm on the South Island last July.

Mycoplasma Bovis has been found on about 40 farms so far but the government believes 192 properties will eventually be involved in the cull.


The cows will be killed in phases and the first phase will kill around 26,000 cows, process for which is already underway. The plan is expected to cost $886mil over 10 years.

Many healthy cows will also be killed.

Katie Milne, the national president of the advocacy group "Federated Farmers", emphasised the support that will be needed for farmers, however, failed to mention the 150,000 cows that will be slaughtered. "This is a necessary, unfortunate part of not having a test that clearly identifies the individual animals yet".

In Ashburton, some farmers are anxious that eradicating Mycoplasma bovis will disproportionately hurt their herds through culling.

The problem with Mycoplasma bovis is that it's hard to detect and doesn't respond to antibiotics. Norway is now the only one.

Officials say they expect to know by the end of the year whether the eradication plan is working. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

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