Around this time, children at local rural schools would normally be getting calves to hand rear and prepare for Ag Day. However, this year pet calves will not feature at the Dairy Flat or Wainui School Agriculture Days (Ag Days) due to the threat of Mycoplasma bovis.
Silverdale School has not had calves at its Ag Days for a number of years. Mycoplasma bovis is a bacterial infection that causes illness in cattle, including mastitis, abortion, pneumonia and arthritis. It does not infect humans and presents no food safety risk. It was first found in the South Island a year ago.
To prevent further spread of the disease, the Ministry for Primary Industries has put in place strict controls as well as providing advice to organisations such as schools via its Mycoplasma bovis Response Liaison.
In recent weeks, Dairy Flat School made the decision to follow this advice and not take the risk of bringing calves to its Ag Day. Principal Debbie Marshall says as the disease is not widespread, and the government is working at getting rid of it, the school believes it’s sensible to avoid any unnecessary risk.
There will still be the lamb, goat and chicken competitions as usual. She says part of the issue is that calves for rearing can be sourced from a wide range of places including local farmers or friends and relatives who live in other districts.
Wainui School principal Gillian Bray says the school has also accepted the guidelines of the response liaison to not have calves at its Ag Day or Group Day.