What’s causing the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak?

Beneath the surface
with David Law
Forward Farming

My recent dealings with clients have indicated an alarming increase in animal health problems which cannot be treated. We have always had that annoying group of cows with somatic cell counts higher than the rest of the herd, which we are forced to cull to keep our bulk SCC at a manageable level.

Now we find that certain strains of mastitis are, upon detection, directed down the same path. This latest scare with Mycoplasma bovis, contained in one farming group in the Oamaru area, and the subsequent resulting management of it by slaughtering cows, casts a very dark cloud over the direction we may be heading.

I have seen some amazing data and collected information during my self-education as a biological consultant. Upon reading my website you will see my point of view can be interestingly unique.

Farming systems

My thought process and data collection on this Mycoplasma bovis is also way left field but nevertheless I am urged to share it with you. Please take into consideration that I am sharing my theory, based on my biological background and observations.

This outbreak was initially confined to one farming enterprise following a certain management system. In areas of the world where Mycoplasma bovis is more prevalent, farmers follow similar farming systems.

Is this disease a result of a farming system rather than a contagious disease? What are the factors that may lead to the symptoms which are appearing with these Mycoplasma bovis victims?

There is some big picture imformation which I believe may be indirectly connected to the initial cause of this disease. My own experience connected to other biological scientists, and specialist vets specifically working on this disease in Europe have led to these observations.

The following are a list of basic observations I have collected.

Dairy farm effluent is generally either anaerobic or aerobic. Symptoms of anaerobic ponds are crusted and have an effluent pH below 7. The thicker the crust, the lower the pH.

Symptoms of an aerobic pond show lesser crust with a pH of the effluent above 7. The higher the pH over 7 the clearer the pond is of crust and sludge.

Good biology

Both these bacteria types have exclusive competition, so as the conditions change further from pH 7, either way, the bacteria which enjoy those conditions dominate.

Chemicals used in dairy farm cleaning, particularly chlorine, kill aerobic bacteria. Good biology beneficial to animal health is generally associated with aerobic bacteria.

Bad and pathogenic disease-causing biology is generally associated with anaerobic bacteria. Effluent, good or bad, is spread on pasture. This feed, whether directly or after harvesting, is fed to cattle.

Chlostridia, botulism, and Mycoplasma bovis are all anaerobic bacteria. Chlostridia is generally present when anaerobic effluent is present in feed. A symptom of cattle with chlostridia is the inability for the animal to suck water in the normal way. They lick at it instead.

Animal starves

Nutrients from the rumen need water to be transported around the body past the rumen.

With the inability to physically drink adequate water, the animal effectively starves after the rumen. The animal is unable to fight disease with no immunity.

Mycoplasma bovis, which is always present, takes advantage and becomes prevalent. Mycoplasma bovis is generally present and associated with botulism and chlostridia.

Testing for chlostridia and botulism will, if present, confirm the origin of the Mycoplasma bovis.

If this information checks out then we can treat the disease, manage it and prevent it in the future.

My vet colleague in Denmark stated that, after the death of hundreds of cows in Germany, anaerobic effluent is not irrigated to pasture anymore.

Of course, MPI have already made their decision and they seem to think differently. Killing cows will definitely fix the symptom.

David Law owns Forward Farming Biological Consultancy

Visit for more: www.forwardfarming.co.nz


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