Milk testing to begin in the South

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Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is testing milk samples for Mycoplasma bovis

The ministry is carrying out tests on milk from sick or lame cows from every dairy farm in New Zealand to find out if the disease is present elsewhere in the country.

Fonterra Otago and Southland regional food safety manager Daniel Simmonds said Fonterra and other dairy companies would collect the milk samples from each farm which would then be sent to an MPI-approved lab to be tested for Mycoplasma bovis.

“We are starting at the bottom of the country,” Mr Simmonds said.

The testing began this week for Open Country Dairy farmers, and will begin next week for dairy farmers who supply Fonterra and other companies.

Every dairy farmer would get a testing kit, Mr Simmonds said.

“The testing kit includes a jug for collecting and mixing the milk, labelled orange vials and a polystyrene box with a slicker pad to keep the temperature stable.”

Testing kits can be collected at meetings around the country or at farm source stores.

To collect samples farmers should collect three squirts from each quarter, he said.

“The milk from all the cows in the sick cow herd is pooled into the same jug.”

Once all the sick cows had been sampled, swirl the jug and pour the milk into the orange vials, Mr Simmonds said.

“Make sure the vial is at least three-quarters full.”

Farmers should check the supplier number was correctly recorded on the label and write the date on the vial.

It was important to make sure the samples were as clean as practically possible with minimal contamination.

“Wipe teats before collecting the sample and wear clean gloves,” he said.

Farmers should then place the vial in the chilly bin with the cold or frozen slicker pad and leave the vial by the vat outlet to be collected by the tanker driver.

“The slicker pad is not heavy enough to keep to polystyrene box from flying away so it is important to put something heavy like a stone on top to hold it down.”

Farmers then needed to clean the jug ready to be used for the next collection in 14 days, Mr Simmonds said.

If farmers had no sick cows they should leave an empty vial in the box, he said.

“This will save us calling you to ask why you haven’t done it.”

The testing was really important for MPI to find out how widespread Mycoplasma bovis was.

“Before they can make any long-term decisions they need to know where the disease is.”

Waimumu dairy farmer Chris Giles said he was glad MPI was carrying out the milk testing.

“It’s a bit late; they could have done it earlier.

“It is a good idea,” Mr Giles said.

Mycoplasma bovis was a bit of a wake-up call.

“It highlights the flaws in Nait [National Animal Identification and Tracing].”

Ferndale dairy farmer Cameron McFadzien said he was interested to see the results of the bulk milk testing.

“It will be good to see how widespread it is,” Mr McFadzien said.

He also thought MIP could have put an action plan in place “a few months earlier”.

Short term he was not worried about his farm, but he was worried about the long-term effect of the disease, Mr McFadzien said.

“If it is widespread it will be a matter of when we get it rather than if.

“It’s not the end of the world; it is just something we will have to learn to live with.”