The Ministry for Primary Industries has put a halt to culling any more dairy herds infected with the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis following the latest outbreaks.

After five months of containment in the South Island the disease had now been detected on a farm in Hawke’s Bay.

The Hastings farm was one of four more infected properties announced by MPI last Tuesday with the other three all from the same farming enterprise at Winton in Southland.

The disease was also strongly suspected on a farm near Ashburton.

MPI response director Geoff Gwyn said the new outbreaks were not good news.

But the good news was the indication all the properties linked to the initial source of the van Leeuwen group of farms in South Canterbury.

All the cattle movements were before July 21 when the disease was notified.

The Hastings and Ashburton properties were identified through MPI’s tracing programme with the Winton enterprise identified through the industry milk testing programme.

Gwyn said there was lot of uncertainty as MPI continued to analyse what the latest outbreaks meant for the wider response.

“Our investigators are building a picture of stock movements onto and off these farms so we will not be making hasty decisions on next steps.”

Meantime, the eradication of further cattle was not an immediate option.

“It would be premature now, given these latest outbreaks, to kill another herd – anywhere.

“It may still be the right strategy once we determine the implications of these latest finds but right now we don’t know for certain so we’re holding off,” Gwyn said.

“The key is less about geographics and more about relationship to the initial infected properties.

“The bad news is we don’t know at the moment just how far and wide these relations are.”

Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay president Will Foley said farmers were absolutely shocked to learn Mb had arrived in their region.

“We were thinking we were so far away it would be quite unlikely to get to us.

“Now there is a whole lot of questions on how the response let this happen to us in Hawke’s Bay but really this situation may not be as new as some may believe.

“The lack of information has had people jumping to conclusions that the horse has bolted and that has created a lot of anger and frustration.

“The meeting with MPI can’t come soon enough for us all to learn more,” Foley said.

Southland Feds president Allan Baird said farmers in the region had now had their worst fears realised.

“There is a lot more vigilance and farmers are stepping up their biosecurity.

“It is clear there needs to be a longer term strategy approach now than just going out and killing animals,” Baird said.

Gwyn said an international advisory team that had assembled in Wellington last week had delivered encouraging news.

“This included disease and risk assessor experts and epidemiology experts from Australia, Canada, America, the United Kingdom and NZ and their view was this response was the most extensive response work seen internationally.

“It’s good to have that tick in the box.”

The advisory team had reviewed the pathways report on the potential source of the disease to NZ and while it was planned to release the report before Christmas, the review had identified areas that required further attention and that had delayed the release.

“It will still be publicly released but that won’t happen now until into the new year,” Gwyn said.

Meantime, the culling of 4000 cattle from the seven infected van Leeuwen properties was complete.

“But no one is packing up the tent and going home,” Gwyn said.

“While we could say the South Canterbury region is in holding mode the focus goes on Hastings and Southland and we will have a team of 30 staff working right through the holiday period.

MPI had public meetings scheduled in Winton on Tuesday December 19 and in Hastings on Wednesday December 20.