New cow disease: Mycoplasma bovis

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Mycoplasma bovis is on many farmers’ minds and has the potential to hit dairy and beef sectors in the pocket, but what actually is this disease?

What we know

  • This is the first time the disease has been found in New Zealand.
  • The disease causes mastitis, pneumonia, abortions and lameness, and can result in the deaths of cows and calves.
  • The disease can be hard to detect and treat because it has special characteristics including: The lack of a cell wall so that certain widely-used antibiotics are not effective; an ability to hide away from the immune system so that infections are difficult for cows to fight; the ability to create conditions that allow evasion from antibiotic treatment (eg within large abscesses).
  • Not all infected cows get sick or show signs of the disease, making it hard to detect. Some shed the disease without becoming ill, allowing for transmission between farms if these cows are moved.
  • It is mainly spread through ‘nose to nose’ contact between cattle through mucus and bodily fluids, and by direct contact with between infected animals and equipment which has been used on infected animals.
  • Mycoplasma bovis does not infect humans and presents no food safety risk. There is no concern about consuming milk and milk products.
  • MPI said all products from infected cows are fine for human consumption. This includes dairy and dairy products once pasteurised and all meat products.
  • While some of the conditions can be treated, affected cattle will always be carriers of the disease.
  • In Australia, the disease is throughout most dairying regions and had devastating impacts on some individual farms, leading to cows and calves being killed.
  • Since the disease arrived in Australia farmers have been using a PCR test, which detects evidence of infection in bulk milk.

Read more…

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