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New Zealand on Verge of Eradicating Cattle Disease Mycoplasma

With only one infected farm remaining, New Zealand may be on the verge of being the first country to eradicate the cow disease Mycoplasma bovis.

When the spread of the bacterial infection jeopardized the health of the country’s dairy and beef cattle herds, the government launched an extermination plan four years ago. Since then, more than 176,000 cattle have been culled and 271 properties have been cleared of the infection, with the government compensating farmers who have lost their herds with NZ$220 million ($144 million).

When we took our one shot to eradicate we did so to protect our national herd from a painful disease, our economy from a sharp shock, and our rural communities from widespread anxiety, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement Thursday in Wellington. I want to acknowledge how tough it’s been for those farmers who have lost their herds and stock genetics built up over decades, she said. No one in the world had attempted to eradicate M. bovis before, and if we were going to try something that had never been done, we needed to do so together.

Mycoplasma bovis, which is found in many farming nations, is a disease that damages cattle’s health and is passed between animals even when they show no signs of infection. It does not infect humans, and milk or beef from infected animals pose no threat to human health.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the remaining contaminated land is a large beef feedlot, not a working farm, and plans are underway to begin eradicating it later this year.

While the government cannot rule out the possibility of occasional findings elsewhere, he said the eradication operation would be transferred to an agency under the National Pest Management Plan.

We are aiming to move from delimiting –- controlling the last known pockets of the disease –- to provisional absence, O’Connor said. This will be followed by significant surveillance testing of herds around the country to provide assurance there are no undetected pockets of disease.

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