Vet backs attempt to eradicate ‘bovis’

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An Oamaru vet who has seen Mycoplasma bovis in dairy herds in England believes New Zealand “has to have a go” at eradicating it.

Hamish Newton, a partner at the Veterinary Centre Oamaru, spent about six years in England from 2001 to 2007. After two years in the Peak District, he completed a PhD in dairy studies at the University of Bristol.

He noticed the bacterial cattle disease M. bovis mainly when outbreaks of pneumonia affected calves. Pneumonia was not dealt with a lot in New Zealand, but was more common in Britain where housed cattle were kept alongside calves.

“Calf pneumonia is a significant disease over there,” Dr Newton said.

It could be fatal, but more often checked growth rates. There were usually viral components and Pasteurellabacteria involved, and the disease tended to be seasonal.

“If they also had Mycoplasma, it made the problem far worse.”

Affected herds would have higher death rates, he said.

“It makes ‘normal’ things worse.”

Dr Newton said he could not say whether adult cattle or calves were more likely to be affected if the disease could not be eradicated in New Zealand.

“I’m not sure anyone knows what it would be like here.

“I suspect when we see it clinically, first it will be in calf sheds.

“If it does get established, it will probably highlight management deficiencies.

“Pooled colostrum and calf milk will spread it within a herd, and between herds, but the biggest risk is still the movement of cattle between herds.”

Animals reared in a stress-free environment might not shows signs of M. bovis, Dr Newton said. But if they came under pressure from other disease or poor husbandry, they could begin to manifest it.

“If it does become endemic, husbandry will be important. Maybe we will need to be more proactive about preventing calf diseases.

“If Mycoplasma bovis does become established, if the animal husbandry and nutrition on a farm is good we may not see much disease.”