A commercial diagnostic tool which will allow farmers to test for cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis themselves is being developed by a partnership comprising commercial laboratories, industry representatives and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
The tool will be released once sampling guidelines, a testing strategy and possibly an accreditation programme have been developed – to ensure the test can be accurately applied and interpreted.
MPI Response Director Geoff Gwyn said since the discovery of Mycoplasma bovis in New Zealand last year the partnership had been working hard to provide practitioners and farmers with better diagnostic tests to assist in detecting the cattle disease on their farms.
“However, while testing options and solutions are becoming available, we have identified that interpreting a one-off test result, even at the herd level, in isolation to other factors, is challenging and carries inherent risk for farmers. The tests currently available will lead to a significant number of farms being falsely identified as positive and farms that may be real positives being missed.
The partnership behind the test programme includes representatives from NZ Veterinary Association, Beef & Lamb NZ, DairyNZ, Dairy Companies Association of NZ, Federated Farmers, AsureQuality, MilkTest NZ, Livestock Improvement Corporation, New Zealand Veterinary Pathology, SVS Laboratories and Gribbles Veterinary Pathology.
The NZVA Chief Veterinary Officer, Helen Beattie said the partnership was focused on helping farmers who were dealing with the many uncertainties around the disease.
“All parties in this partnership are acutely aware of the need for a robust on-farm solution for farmers who are concerned about Mycoplasma bovis. All parties are working urgently on developing this tool, and all the elements needed to support it.”
Any accreditation programme will likely not only consider test results, but also factors such as herd management, animal health and record keeping (including NAIT records) all of which will be used to inform farmers of the likely risk of Mycoplasma bovis in their herd.
MPI is continuing to test milk from every dairy farm in New Zealand – a comprehensive programme that is nearly complete, and is occurring alongside MPI’s extensive surveillance work tracing every possible movement of animals from infected farms.
“We acknowledge that some farmers may be disappointed they don’t have access to a commercial diagnostic tool now to give them some certainty about whether their animals, or animals they may be purchasing, carry the infection. However, it’s critically important that we don’t rush this – we have to get it right,” said Mr Gwyn.