The tips include farm management recommendations that will help farmers reduce the risk of the disease among their stock.
The mycoplasma outbreak has affected a large majority of farms across New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) last year announced measures to reduce the risk of spreading the disease, such as culling 4,000 cattle.
Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) is a bacterium that causes mastitis, arthritis, and pneumonia. It is spread via nose to nose and direct physical contact between cattle.
The following guides for farmers include:
Boundaries and gates
Maintain fences and gates to secure your boundaries and have one main entrance to your property. Also, prevent gate opening by animal activity or human visitors. Create 2m buffer zones along all fence lines to prevent cattle contact, including roadways and lanes.
Do not graze multiple herds in one paddock. If unavoidable, create a semi-permanent double fence using rows of waratahs 2m apart, and graze cattle away from each other. Use the feed in buffer zones before or after cattle are on both sides of the fence.
Maintain your yards to keep them as clean and dry as possible. Ask herd owners to do tasks such as tagging, vaccinating and drenching at the home farm to reduce use of yards. Work with herd owners, so cattle from the same herd arrive during a morning, afternoon or day, without having contact with other herds.
Consider using portable ramps to offload. If you share your yards with a neighbour, have a discussion about how shared use will work.
Make a plan for how you will deal with sick or injured stock (call the vet, mark/record/separate/treat, send home).
Under no circumstances should sick or injured animals from multiple herds be mixed into one mob.
Machinery can be contaminated by saliva when licked by curious cattle. Avoid leaving tractors and wagons sitting in paddocks. Remember that if you choose to disinfect something, disinfection doesn’t work unless the surface has been cleaned first.
Feeders and troughs
Keep feeders and troughs in the same herd for the grazing season. Make sure staff are aware of the saliva contamination as they move between mobs. Depending on the gloves worn, it may or may not be practical to disinfect the hands/gloves between mobs.
The main risk posed by lanes is cattle on the other side of the fences. Make sure your 2m buffer zones are in place between all groups of cattle, including along lanes and roadways.
Visitors and Biosecurity
Having a sign at the entrance to your property that directs unexpected visitors to stay on the farm track and ring a farm owner or manager is a sensible general biosecurity strategy.
Being prepared for visitors with spare gumboots and overalls, or having a disinfection station for boots when people enter and leave your property, can also be helpful.
A ‘clean on, clean off’ policy for visitors and their gear will minimise the risk of transferring diseases and pests between farms.
It is good practice to involve your staff with the planning of procedures on your farm. Create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) so the team has a clear understanding of expectations during most situations.