Mycoplasma bovis and stock movement

Vet's vision
with Phil Rennie
Tauranga Vets

Mycoplasma bovis is a bacterium that causes illness in cattle, including udder infection mastitis, abortion, pneumonia, and arthritis.

In July 2017, the Ministry for Primary Industries detected the bacterial infection Mycoplasma bovis in cattle at a South Canterbury dairy farm. This was the first time it has been found in New Zealand. MPI has assured the public the infection cannot be passed on to humans and that it presents no food safety risk. MPI has also stated there is no concern about consuming milk and milk products from affected cattle.

By December 2018, good progress had been made towards the goal of eradication made one year ago. If accomplished, this will be a world first and one the NZ cattle industry together with government support is keen to achieve. Spearheading this progress is extensive dairy bulk milk monitoring, which revealed only a few new Infected Properties.

Further efforts are being made by MPI for beef cattle, with about 200 farms shortly due to be closely monitored with notices of direction – known as NoDs.

The disease may be dormant in an animal, causing no distress at all. But in times of stress – for example, calving, drying-off, transporting, or being exposed to extreme weather – it may shed bacteria in milk and nasal secretions.

As a result, other animals may be infected and become ill or carriers themselves. Farmers should call their veterinarian if they suspect their cattle are showing any clinical signs of the disease, including mastitis, that don’t respond to treatment – respiratory distress, profound lameness and late-term abortions.

Stock movement awareness

Any animals that come onto your farm are a potential source of disease for your herd. Sending animals away for grazing could expose them to diseases that you may not have on your farm.

Before purchase/entry

Use a pre-purchase checklist when you buy or lease cattle. Ask questions about animal health, TB status, vaccinations, and disease and treatment history.

For example, see: If in doubt consult your veterinarian for specific disease management advice. Make sure all sending and receiving movements are sent to the NAIT system for all animal movements. Clearly, the above relies on making sure all your animals have NAIT tags.

Sending animals off the milking platform or home farm

Talk to your grazier about managing grazing to avoid nose-to-nose contact with other stock. Consult your veterinarian for specific disease management advice for animals grazing away, preferably before sending them away – and especially if you intend to bring them home.

New arrivals

Treat your own animals as new arrivals when they return home. Keep any newly-arrived animals separate from resident animals to check the health status of the new animals for at least two-three days and ideally up to one week if practical. Monitor new arrivals for signs of disease and talk to your veterinarian if you are concerned.


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