Farm­ers take M. bo­vis pre­cau­tions

Bush Telegraph - - FOCUS ON FARMING - By CAR­O­LINE KING DairyNZ

Dairy farm­ers are us­ing a range of tac­tics in­clud­ing due dili­gence, quar­an­tine and vir­gin bulls to keep their cows and farms safe from My­coplasma bo­vis this mat­ing sea­son.

The dis­ease, which is mainly spread through close phys­i­cal con­tact with in­fected an­i­mals, makes us­ing bulls which have been ex­posed to other stock an added risk.

This has made some farm­ers think twice about con­tin­u­ing to use a com­bi­na­tion of ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion (AI) and bulls, and con­sider ex­tend­ing AI to re­move bulls from the equa­tion al­to­gether, or re­duce the num­ber re­quired.

DairyNZ says they have re­ceived a num­ber of en­quiries from farm­ers over re­cent weeks want­ing more in­for­ma­tion to weigh up the risks and ben­e­fits as­so­ci­ated with each ap­proach.

DairyNZ re­sponse man­ager Hamish Hodg­son says the best thing farm­ers can do to pro­tect their herd and farm is “do their home­work”.

“Un­for­tu­nately there isn’t a sil­ver bul­let — there are pros and cons as­so­ci­ated with both AI and bulls,” he says.

While a lot of farm­ers have been con­sid­er­ing adapt­ing their usual ap­proach, most aren’t mak­ing dras­tic changes, Hodg­son says.

The ma­jor­ity ap­pear to be stick­ing with a com­bi­na­tion of AI and bulls, de­spite re­ports some farm­ers were shy­ing away from us­ing bulls this sea­son.

“There’s been some mur­murs that farm­ers were go­ing to avoid us­ing bulls and just use ar­ti­fi­cial breed­ing, how­ever af­ter con­sid­er­ing the risk and the cost to their busi­nesses few have elected to pro­ceed with a full AI sys­tem due to the likely low­er­ing of over­all fer­til­ity stats, per­ceived costs, and in­creased labour for ac­cu­rate heat de­tec­tion”.

“Those us­ing bulls should still do their due dili­gence, check where they’ve come from and if they’ve been in herds with a his­tory of dis­ease. This is ex­tremely im­por­tant, es­pe­cially if they’re older bulls that have done a few mat­ing sea­sons on other farms” says Hodg­son.

He un­der­stood there had also been a spike in de­mand for vir­gin bulls which

have had min­i­mal ex­po­sure to other an­i­mals, re­duc­ing the risk of bring­ing bulls on farm. Farm­ers have also been ask­ing about M. bo­vis tests for bulls, Hodg­son says.

“There is a PCR (poly­merase chain re­ac­tion) test that is highly sen­si­tive and will de­tect if M. bo­vis is present in a sam­ple, but the com­plex na­ture of the dis­ease can make this chal­leng­ing. Be­cause in­fected an­i­mals only shed the bac­te­ria in­ter­mit­tently it is de­pen­dent on M. bo­vis be­ing present where the sam­ple is taken, on the day the an­i­mal is tested. This means a re­sult of ‘not de­tected’ doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean it’s dis­ease-free. That’s why we’re rec­om­mend­ing farm­ers gather as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble about the source of any bulls and don’t rely on PCR re­sults,” he says.

It’s rec­om­mended farm­ers keep bulls sep­a­rate from their main herd for at least seven days to al­low time for the dis­ease to present if they’re in­fected, Hodg­son says.

Any farm­ers con­cerned about the health of bulls should con­tact their vet­eri­nar­ian be­fore in­tro­duc­ing them to their herd.

For more in­for­ma­tion on mit­i­gat­ing the risks of M. bo­vis this mat­ing sea­son, visit­vis

Those us­ing bulls should still do their due dili­gence.

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