Complacency among farmers is a key risk after the number of Mycoplasma bovis infected properties peaked nationally in May, the Ministry of Primary Industries has warned.
Bovis response director Geoff Gwyn said a year after the cow disease was first found on an Otago farm, many farms previously infected were back up and running, having had herds culled and farms cleaned.
While the number of infected properties throughout New Zealand was at its highest in May, that brought its own problem, he said.
“I do worry at times that complacency might settle in because we are starting to get some figures that show the problems aren’t getting bigger.
“The vast majority of the industry do just that [manage the risk properly] but there are those who might start to cut corners and that’s what will unpick us, if anything,” Gwyn said.
He confirmed five Wairarapa properties were under regulatory control.
Two properties have been issued a restricted place notice, including the infected Bideford property named in July, meaning they are infected or suspected of having the disease.
An additional three have a Notice of Direction, meaning an inspector considers the movement of stock from a farm is a risk of spreading the disease.
About 20 per cent of properties under a NoD end up being infected, he said.
On July 10, the last load of 65 bulls was taken to be culled from the Bideford property confirmed to be infected.
The farm is now around halfway through a 60-day stand-down period, during which time their farm must be cleaned and remain stock-free.
Gwyn said it was “a bit hard to say” if the three Wairarapa properties with NoDs could all end up infected, but said there was a chance one might.
While the number of infected properties hitting the news had slowed in recent weeks, he urged farmers to continue good biosecurity and risk management processes.
He admits it took MPI some time to understand the disease.
“The reality is [the disease] had freedom of movement for some 18 months before regulatory controls were put in place.”
Gwyn said it took time to trace movements, which was made more difficult by incomplete National Animal Identification and Tracing records leaving the ministry to rely a lot on farmer’s memories.
In recent months, MPI had been criticised for its ‘slow reaction’ to the spreading disease.
“I understand why people think this is slow, but the reality is that it is a slowly moving disease.”
While eradication is the government’s aim, Gwyn said even if this was not possible there were benefits in the work being done.
“I think we are all realistic and understand there is no cast iron guarantee of success here, but I would also say even if we weren’t successful in eradication . . . we will be a good step towards long-term management,” he said.
MPI will undertake another round of milk testing this month to get a better idea on the full extent of the disease.