Farmers will be told if neighbours have M Bovis

Damien O'Connor reads a statement to Parliament about the Government's Mycoplasma Bovis response. Photo: Lynn Griveson

Farmers will now be told when a neighbouring farm has been infected with mycoplasma bovis.

The Primary Industries Minister, Damien O’Connor made the announcement today as part of the Government’s ongoing $886 million mission to become the first country to eradicate the disease.

“MPI will start directly informing neighbouring farms of infected properties or high-risk properties,” O’Connor said.

“This will mean farmers can take appropriate steps to improve their on-farm biosecurity and reduce the risk to their own stock,” he said.

The announcement comes just weeks after O’Connor told the Primary Production Select Committee that farmers were still taking biosecurity risks, even after the Government announced its plans to eradicate the disease and compensate farmers for losses.

O’Connor and MPI officials told the select committee earlier this month that they were aware movements of non-compliant stock were still occurring, and that problems were “very prevalent”.

One particular concern raised in the select committee was the continued lack of compliance with the NAIT tagging system, which is designed to track stock movements throughout the country and thereby monitor biosecurity risks.

At one point, fewer than 30 percent of farmers in some areas complied and O’Connor conceded to the committee that compliance was still an issue even after the disease outbreak.

Under the measures announced today, MPI will publish a list of NAIT numbers of all affected animals on its website, including all animals associated with or traced from an infected property.

“This will give farmers better information to make informed decisions when purchasing new stock,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor also suggested the NAIT act could be amended to bring its powers in line with the Search and Surveillance Act.

The select committee heard that cash sales with little or no paperwork were still commonplace on some farms. Beefing up enforcement of the formalities of stock sales for both biosecurity and tax reasons was identified as being an issue for MPI.

O’Connor announced today the ministry will try to combat this through stricter enforcement of the Animal Status Declaration Form, which must accompany a consignment of cattle when a stock sale takes place.

“Farmers need to disclose the health history of their stock in the form and declare whether their farm is under any movement controls,” O’Connor said.

“They need to ensure they are completing the ASD form correctly and, along with greater compliance with NAIT, this will support our efforts to eradicate mycoplasma bovis,” he said.

The Animal Products Act may be amended to add a new infringement offence for failing to use an ASD form correctly.