MPI science advisor: ‘I wouldn’t wish M bovis on my worst enemy’

Rural Exchange 09/06/2018

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has confirmed 36 properties have been infected with Mycoplasma bovis, with a beef and sheep far, near Masterton testing positive for the disease last week.

The cattle disease has caused a stir across New Zealand, even prompting Finance Minister Grant Robertson to commit to financially back eradication efforts.

On Wednesday, Mr Robertson signed a blank cheque to signify the Government’s willingness to spend as much as possible provided that eradication shows signs of success.

The Government and the primary sector have agreed to go forward with eradication, which involves culling all cattle on infected properties.

Former DairyNZ scientist Dr John Roche told Rural Exchange he wouldn’t wish M bovis on his worst enemy.

Dr Roche, who has been selected as MPI’s primary science advisor, experienced an M bovis outbreak first hand in North America.

Dr Roche will provide strategic scientific advice to the director general of MPI on issues facing primary industries, including researching new tools in the fight against Mycoplasma bovis.

“In New Zealand, we’ve been protected largely from the diseases that many of the other dairy industries have had to deal with. And we are very fortunate because of that.”

But Dr Roche warned that M bovis should not be downplayed, as it’s not something anyone should have on their farm.

“There’ve been a number of people who’ve played this down… This disease really strikes when the immune system is compromised, which really happens around calving.”

Nevertheless, Dr Roche told Rural Exchange he remains hopeful on the eradication efforts going forward.

“Although no other country has eradicated M bovis, diseases have been eradicated in the past.

“So [eradication] is not uncharted territory, it’s just uncharted territory for this particular disease,” he said.

Watch the full interview with Dr John Roche above.

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