25 Jun 2018

Mycoplasma bovis: Four of 10 experts recommended managing disease

5:26 pm on 25 June 2018

A panel of experts set up to advise the government on the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis has provided more details on its narrow six-to-four vote in favour of phased eradication.

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Photo: RNZ

That option, which means culling infected animals and using continual testing to work towards eradication, was selected from four options by the Ministry for Primary Industries' Technical Advisory Group (TAG).

The group of 10 technical experts recommended phased eradication to Cabinet over three other options, with six voting for it.

Four preferred an option to manage the disease to limit its impact rather than trying to wipe it out, with TAG chair Scott McDougall saying those four had doubts about how feasible it was to eradicate.

"Certainly, there were a number who felt that the scope of what we were dealing with had reached a stage .... that even though it was technically achievable (to eradicate), the fact that there would be many infected herds that we did not know about, meant that we could not do it," Dr McDougall said.

"Conversely, the majority was saying, look even though there is a considerable amount of uncertainty... we were confident that the resourcing would be there, the lab tests would work effectively, and the social wrap-around for farmers and veterinarians was sufficiently strong for eradication to be achievable."

Dr McDougall said the TAG rejected rapid eradication out of hand, because it would mean farmers could not milk their cows until the end of their lactation, which would be economically and socially costly.

The other option would have been to do nothing at all, and that was also rejected by the TAG group.

Dr McDougall said the sticking point for the group had never been the technical feasibility of eradication.

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