News & Advice

Mycoplasma Bovis is a bacterial disease that typically affects both adult cattle and calves. It does not infect humans and poses no risk to food safety. Mycoplasma was first detected in a small number of New Zealand Dairy herds on the South Island in July 2017. Recently (December 2017) the condition has been isolated on a few additional farms including one in the Hawkes Bay area and several related farms near Winton. All farms identified to date are linked by animal movements. We have not seen Mycoplasma in the Waikato as yet, but we want our farmers to be aware of the introduction of the disease to New Zealand.

What symptoms do we see in infected animals?

Infected animals may show no symptoms, as Mycoplasma can infect animals without showing disease, lying dormant for weeks or months. In adult animals symptoms include:
• Diffuse swelling of the joints/legs with associated lameness
• Pneumonia
• Mastitis, often poorly responsive to treatment and in multiple quarters (more relevant to dairy cattle)

In calves symptoms include:

• Acute and severe pneumonia
• Diffuse swelling of the joints/legs with associated lameness
• Head tilt caused by inner ear infections
• Conjunctivitis

Farms that purchase dairy calves to raise them or graziers are more likely to import this disease, and milk for rearers is a potential source of infection. Higher intensity farming increases the chance of disease from infection e.g. feedlots and calf rearing, so this is where the highest impact may be seen.

How is Mycoplasma diagnosed?

Mycoplasma is difficult to grow therefore specific microbial techniques are required.

An alternative testing system known as PCR, is currently available through MPI labs in New Zealand and is commercially available in other parts of the world. This test relies on the detection of the bacterial DNA. In New Zealand a commercial test is anticipated to be available shortly.

We are your first point of contact, should you suspect Mycoplasma is present in your herd. We will help you through the steps required to rule out, or confirm this diagnosis. At present, only once the disease is confirmed does Government Veterinary Service involvement occur.

What are the best, immediate steps for prevention?

Cattle movements onto farm are the greatest risk for introduction of Mycoplasma. Currently all known farms in New Zealand with Mycoplasma are under movement control (that is they can’t sell cattle), so the risk should be small, but any activity which co-mingles your livestock with cattle from other farms increases the risk of exposure.

Biosecurity measures such as thorough washing of boots, protective clothing and gear between contact with cattle groups on a single farm or shifting activities between farms will help reduce the risk of spreading this disease.

If you have any further questions or concerns, contact your local Anexa Vet, we are here to help.

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