Advice about Mycoplasma bovis for all farmers
What you need to know to help stop the spread of Mycoplasma bovis.
On this page:
- Look out for signs and report the disease
- Practice good on-farm biosecurity
- Keep NAIT and animal movement records up to date
- Continue to send bobby calves and slinks for processing
- Protect stock when grazing off the home farm
- Advice for managing service bulls and semen
- Buying stock
- RFID numbers
- Calf days, cattle shows, and events
- Support for farmers
- Find out more
We have a range of resources to help farmers, industry, and the general public on issues with Mycoplasma bovis. Our resource library has documents, guidance, and fact sheets you can download.
Look out for signs of Mycoplasma bovis. Report any signs to:
- your vet
- the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on 0800 80 99 66
Signs in cows include:
- unusual mastitis in cows that doesn't respond to treatment
- late-term abortion
- high numbers of calf deaths.
Signs include in calves:
- severe pneumonia, starting as a hacking cough
- ear infections. The first sign typically being one droopy ear, progressing to ear discharges, and in some cases a head tilt
Not all infected animals get sick. Sometimes the disease is dormant and only appears when animals are under stress – for example, when calving, being transported, or in adverse weather. Those animals can spread the disease to other cattle through close contact.
Poster of Mycoplasma bovis – what to look out for [PDF, 636 KB]
Mycoplasma bovis mainly affects cattle and has little effect on other production animals. It does not affect horses and other pets.
The disease spreads in 2 ways:
- by animal-to-animal contact
- by feeding infected milk to calves.
You can help protect your farm and prevent the spread of the disease by doing on-farm biosecurity checks.
- A3 farm hygiene poster - Protect your farm from disease [PDF, 754 KB]
- DairyNZ farm biosecurity checklist – the WOF
- Guidance on protecting your farm [PDF, 358 KB]
- General on-farm biosecurity guidance
Biosecurity measures extend to any farm service providers such as contractors and trucking companies.
NAIT (National Animal Identification and Tracing) is New Zealand's cattle and deer tracing system and complying with it is law. It's critical that you maintain up-to-date and accurate NAIT and other animal movement records. Accurate record keeping helps us track animal movements and locate any that could be affected. It is also a useful tool for managing your own on-farm biosecurity by providing you with a complete history of brought-in animals.
Farmers are encouraged to continue to send bobby calves and slinks for processing.
Transporting bobby calves and slinks to processing has negligible risk of spreading Mycoplasma bovis from infected farms to unaffected farms. The disease is mostly spread through direct, close contact between cattle. Vehicles pose a very low risk of spreading the disease. Because bobby calves and slinks go direct to processing and not onto other farms, there is no residual risk from movement.
Trucks taking calves from affected farms won't go to unaffected farms
Farms that are infected, or being tested, are under regulatory controls – they can't move animals off the property without a permit from MPI.
The permit sets out requirements that the farmer and transporter must meet. In particular, a truck carrying live animals (including bobby calves):
- must go directly to the processing plant
- may, if permitted, pick up animals from other farms under controls, but not from unaffected farms
- must be thoroughly cleaned at the plant after unloading the animals
- can't visit other unaffected farms unless it has been cleaned.
What farmers can do
Create designated areas on your farm that are 'clean' areas – where bobby calf and slink pick-ups and other public movements can take place. For example, use the tanker track or house driveway. Make sure these areas are well separated from areas of the farm where stock is kept.
Find out more
- Advice for transporters about Mycoplasma bovis
- Bobby calf animal welfare
- Bobby calf videos for transporters
Thousands of New Zealand dairy cattle are wintered or grazed off their home farms. There are many ways graziers can protect the health of the stock they manage.
DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand have information sheets you can download.
The highest risk for the spread of infection is the movement of infected animals from one herd to another. Bulls who have been in contact with infected cows then moved to another herd, are a risk for the spread of infection.
Before spring mating, read our advice about the level of risk of transmission of Mycoplasma bovis in semen.
- Advice on using imported or local semen [PDF, 341 KB]
When buying stock, check the source of the cattle and their health history.
Below is a list of RFID (radio frequency identification) ear-tag numbers from farms under Restricted Place Notices. Any farm that is under a Restricted Place notice is unable to move or trade any stock.
We'll be updating the list regularly but we can't guarantee that it is always up to date because of the fast-changing nature of the Mycoplasma bovis response. Use of this information shouldn't substitute best practice. Make sure you continue to check the animal's original source and health history.
This RFID list does not yet include all properties. We'll be adding to it over time.
- List of RFID numbers from farms under Restricted Place Notices – 18 July 2018 [CSV, 37 KB]
- Information about Restricted Place Notices and movement controls
- Find out about RFID ear tags – NAIT
For spring 2018, we recommend against schools and clubs holding calf days. Bringing animals from different herds together does pose a risk of disease spread. While the risk is relatively low, we are in a critical phase for tracking down and eradicating Mycoplasma bovis and unnecessary mixing of animals at events like calf days should be avoided.
If schools and clubs do go ahead with events, ensure you have consulted with your communities and taken all sensible precautions. Our fact sheet has some simple precautions you can take to minimise the risks.
We understand this disease will be stressful for farmers who are affected and farming communities.
If you are a farmer and need support, help is available through your industry group representative, individual response case manager, or the Rural Support Trust.
We're calling on rural communities to support each other, especially affected farmers and those that appear to be finding it hard. If you have any concerns about someone you know, contact the Rural Support Trust or other community support services.
Looking after yourself – fact sheet [PDF, 1.2 MB]
Find out more
If you have questions about Mycoplasma bovis:
Other websites with information
Subscribe to get weekly updates
Has this been useful? Give us your feedback