News & Press: NZVA news

Mycoplasma bovis update

Tuesday, 14 August 2018  
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Update: 15 August

In this update:

  • Compensation after commercial testing
  • Calf days off for 2018
  • Updated document: Spring surveillance programme specifications
  • M. bovis update: 1 August 2018

 

Compensation after commercial testing

The NZVA has been actively engaging with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Response team about the process for commercial testing for M. bovis, which currently exposes a compensation issue for farms outside regulatory control. We will keep you updated as information comes to hand. In the meantime, this is the current situation and process, and our interim advice:

Commercial PCR testing has the potential to individually identify animals as Mycoplasma bovis positive, through cases found during testing.

Any commercial PCR testing that is done outside the M. bovis response (that is, on animals on any property that has not been issued with a legal notice - IP, NoD, RP) is considered to be outside regulatory control.

If an animal tests positive outside regulatory control, compensation will be paid at slaughter value not full animal replacement value.

The process for managing positive test results from commercial testing is:

  • Commercial tests are submitted to the veterinarian's usual laboratory    
  • Suspect positive results are referred through to MPI's Animal Health Laboratories (AHL)
  • A positive test result is confirmed by MPI's AHL
  • The farmer is informed by MPI, and regulatory controls are placed on the property.

In the interests of fully informed consent, which is an important cornerstone of a veterinarian's professional reputation and their client relationships, the testing process should be discussed with clients as part of the conversation when deciding whether to pursue commercial PCR testing. This should now include a conversation about the de-valuing of animals found positive outside of regulatory controls.

Veterinarians are reminded of the limitations of PCR testing, and should be clear that a status can only ever be "Not Yet Detected (at the site swabbed)" or "positive".

To date only a tiny number of animals have been devalued as a result of returning individual positive tests. However, there can be a significant financial difference between slaughter and full market values, and this could affect more farmers if commercial testing increases. This is particularly relevant in testing of high value animals (e.g. studs) and when large numbers of animals are being tested.

If a farm is issued with a legal notice as a result of commercial testing, MPI advises veterinarians to refer farmers to their ICP Manager in the first instance. The ICP Manager will work with the central Response compensation team to provide the information/actions the farmer needs.

Calf days

The NZVA is advising that Calf Days (or similar) should not take place in 2018.

In our 1 August M. bovis update to cattle, sheep and beef, and deer branch members, we asked: Are calf days on or off?

We repeat the NZVA's position from that update:

Given that New Zealand is attempting phased eradication of M. bovis, calf days should not take place for 2018.

Once New Zealand has a better understanding of the national herd’s M. bovis status, a review on these events can occur.

Calf schemes that require calves to be moved and mixed with other herds should also be avoided for 2018, given the significant implications if the source herd became an infected property. Donations in kind, as cash, or rearing of the donated beast on the home farm through to slaughter are some alternate options.

Spring surveillance programme specifications document

In the M. bovis update on 1 August (below) we provided a link to the spring surveillance programme specifications document. The table in that document was incorrectly formatted. The correct document is:


 

Update: 1 August

This M. bovis update includes:

  • Who's who in the M.bovis response?
  • Are calf days on or off?
  • What are NoD, IP and RP and how do they relate to each other?
  • What's the plan for bulk milk testing in spring?
  • Testing, testing, testing - what's the right way?
  • Fitness-for-transport certification

 

Who's who in the M. bovis response?

In this update, we look at the two main advisory groups for the response. Both groups are chaired by an NZVA member.

Technical Advisory Group (TAG) - This group of animal health specialists was formed to advise on the options and long-term planning for the Government's national response to M. bovis. It recommended eradication. The group is chaired by Scott McDougall, managing director of Cognosco, a company involved in animal health research and development. Scott has previously worked as a scientist with the Dairy Research organisation, now DairyNZ.

Other members of the TAG are:

  • Professor Robin Nicholas, a British consultant, who has been head of the Mycoplasma Reference Laboratory in the UK
  • Professor Glenn Browning director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Animal Health, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Jeff Caswell, a Professor of Pathology, Ontario Vet College
  • Dr Mark Humphris, an Australian dairy veterinary consultant
  • Professor Larry Fox, Professor of Dairy, Washington State University
  • Dr John Morton, a veterinary epidemiological consultant from Geelong
  • Dr Simon Firestone, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne
  • Dr Ben Madin, an epidemiologist and director of AusVet
  • Dr Stephen Cobb, an independent consultant with SRC Associates
  • Professor Nigel French, Professor of Food Safety & Public Health at Massey University

Technical Working Group (TWG) - Essentially the new TWG is the old Industry Working Group (IWG). The TWG pan-industry group is chaired by the NZVA's Chief Veterinary Officer Helen Beattie. It meets weekly to discuss issues arising during the response, consider solutions, and provide scientific, evidence-based guidance and feedback to M. bovis response governance. Its role is also to coordinate and share, wherever possible, consistent messaging to key stakeholders; and support the response by providing access to subject matter experts on technical policy and other issues.

Organisations represented on the TWG are:

  • Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) - Liaison (Secretariat); Intelligence; Planning; and Public Information Management (PIM) units
  • DairyNZ
  • Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ)
  • Federated Farmers
  • Road Transport Forum
  • New Zealand Stock and Station Agents Association
  • New Zealand Veterinary Association
  • Beef & Lamb New Zealand
  • Meat Industry Association

 

Are calf days on or off?

A position on calf days is expected from the TWG in the next 10 days and is in line with communications that have already been provided by several organisations. Given that New Zealand is attempting phased eradication of M. bovis, calf days should not take place for 2018. Once New Zealand has a better understanding of the national herd’s M. bovis status, a review on these events can occur.

Calf schemes that require calves to be moved and mixed with other herds should also be avoided for 2018, given the significant implications if the source herd became an infected property. Donations in kind, as cash, or rearing of the donated beast on the home farm through to slaughter are some alternate options.

 

What are NoD, IP and RP and how do they relate to each other?

There are three types of legal notices (with movement controls) being used by MPI during the M. bovis response:

Notice of Direction (NoD): These are issued to properties which have an unknown level of risk – such as trace farms that have not yet been tested, or have results pending.

Movements onto the property are not restricted, but any cattle movements off the property are prohibited except with a permit issued directly from MPI. Some cleaning and disinfection processes are likely to be required.

Infected property (IP): A property with confirmed M. bovis infection. These properties will be under a Restricted Place Notice.

Restricted Place Notice (RP): These are issued to properties that may or may not have confirmed M. bovis infection, but are considered very high risk. All cattle movements are prohibited on or off the property, except with a permit issued directly from MPI. Equipment and personnel entering or leaving the farm must follow strict cleaning and disinfection protocols overseen by AsureQuality.

More information is available on the MPI website.

 

What's the plan for bulk milk testing in spring?

This spring, as part of the M. bovis response, all dairy companies will be testing every farm supplying milk.

This bulk milk surveillance programme will help to give further assurance of previous non-detects, and identify any clusters of the disease that have gone undetected so far.

M. bovis can hide in an infected cow, not showing up until weeks or months after the animal has contracted the disease. The spring months are the best time to test for M. bovis because infected animals are more likely to shed the bacteria after a stressful period, such as calving and the start of lactation.

See more detail from MPI:

 

Testing, testing, testing - what's the right way?

The NZVA’s email to members about commercial PCR testing of cattle remains relevant.

An individual test (or even a small number of individual tests) is not useful to prove a herd nor an animal’s negative status – M. bovis may be “not detected” only (or positive).

Access to further commercial testing is still under discussion. Details about access to the testing, and sampling numbers, sample selection and sampling protocols (i.e. which test or tests are required, how many animals, and from which epidemiological groups, and ensuring a random selection) are key components of this discussion.

 

Fitness-for-transport certification

Last week, the NZVA issued guidelines to members and a media release recommending that the transport of heavily pregnant cows be avoided within four weeks of the planned start of calving.

If you are certifying cows in late pregnancy, the NZVA strongly suggests you consult heavily with MPI Verification Services in advance of certifying.

The intent of the guidelines is to support veterinarians being asked to certify as fit-for-transport cows that could give birth, or be in the late stages of pregnancy when long trips, and standing in trucks and in lairage for a prolonged time, is not acceptable.

We expect veterinarians will use their good judgement in terms of the general timeframe, variations in biological systems and the animal's welfare, which is paramount. This includes taking into account the longevity of the journey and potential delays at processing plants that require significant standing time – potentially overnight. The implications of judgements, and any potential welfare compromise resulting from a veterinarian’s decision, are no different in this scenario than for any other certification process.