Mycoplasma bovis - be on the look out

The recent diagnosis of Mycoplasma bovis (M. Bovis) in two South Island herds is another reminder for us not to take for granted our freedom from diseases that plague cattle in many other countries.

M. Bovis expresses itself in several ways - pneumonia, arthritis, mastitis and abortion to name the most common signs. It does have a dark side in that it regularly is present in cattle but with no clinical signs.

M. Bovis has characteristics that make these bacteria difficult to fight with antibiotics and the drugs with licence claims for M. Bovis are not currently available in New Zealand (NZ).  Be on the lookout for mastitis cases and arthritis cases that don't respond to current treatments.  This may be the first sign.

There are no effective vaccinations to prevent infection.

How the disease arrived and how long it has been in NZ, is still under investigation and we won't add to the speculation.  Suffice to say, all of us, farmers and vets, need to be vigilant.

Disease spread is primarily through contact with another infected cattle beast so movement of cattle (young or mature) from an infected farm to another herd is a serious risk.  Transmission by semen and embryos may also occur but the treatment or washing of semen and embryos following collection and prior to freezing will remove this risk.

Wind-borne transmission is not considered a significant transmission pathway but we should avoid the movement of contaminated equipment and those handling stock who move from farm to farm must clean down between farms.

To diagnose M. Bovis testing for the bacteria's DNA or genetic material using a PCR test is the test of choice and we can also test for an immune response (antibodies).  M. Bovis is an unwanted organism and any suspicion of this disease must be reported to MPI by phoning 0800 80 99 66.

Like many farmers, we are deeply concerned about the consequences on the long-term well being of our cattle following the diagnosis of this disease in NZ.

Further information can also be obtained from