Farmers urged to ramp up biosecurity

Farmers should use signage to let people know about their biosecurity protocols, says Dairy NZ’s Dr Nita Harding.

Farmers and lifestyle block owners need to keep talking to each other and to assess anyone and anything that comes onto or leaves their property, as cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis continues to spread.

That was the message from local and national veterinary experts at a special biosecurity workshop organised by the Rodney branch of the Dairy Women’s Network in Wellsford last month.

Wellsford Vet Clinic CEO and head vet Steve McAulay said it was important for everyone to keep the conversation going about biosecurity, disease and what could be done about it.

“We’ve got to keep talking. There’s a lot of hearsay. M bovis is very hard to detect,” he said. “Talk to your vets, talk to the vets of the animals you buy. Do you know your neighbour’s opinion of NAIT (the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme)? Ask them. It’s a conversation we have got to keep having.”

Dairy NZ technical vet advisor Dr Nita Harding said the main way the disease was spread was by the movement of animals, so anyone buying stock needed to do their research and take precautions.

“Farmers need to ask about the health history of the farm and the animals, their movement history, who they have had contact with,” she said. “Inspect them when they arrive, and separate them for at least seven days, ideally a month.”

Farms or blocks should be visualised as a box, with everything that either comes in or goes out of it considered in terms of the risk they present – people, animals, vehicles and products, such as milk, water, feed and seeds.

“Limit the number of entrances to your farm and have signage to say that you’re being biosecurity aware, make it a condition of entry,” said Dr Harding. “If people and equipment don’t need to come on the farm, keep them off. Coming on to your farm is a privilege, not a right.”

She said anything or anyone coming on to a property should be “clean on, clean off”, and said farmers could help with this by making it easy for people to wash their boots and hands.

“Biosecurity is basically risk management to protect your business. It’s up to you to choose your level of risk. But biosecurity works best when everybody is doing something. The more people who know and are involved, the better. If everybody steps up a bit, it’s good for everybody.”

Although there were no cases of M bovis north of the Waikato as Mahurangi Matters went to press, there was one Restricted Place Notice (high risk of infection) and four Notice of Directions (restricted movements due to some risk) on farms in Northland.

Detailed information on biosecurity precautions and M bovis updates can be found at or