Rise in bovine TB jolt against complacency

A spike in bovine tuberculosis in Southland areas is a wake-up call the eradication job's not done yet, TBfree says.

Latest figures from TBfree, the body in charge of controlling the disease, show there are five herds in Southland with the infection.

Three could be traced to wildlife infections.

Southland TBfree Committee chairman Mike O'Brien said for the past few years Southland had been sitting on one or two infected herds and five was "certainly getting up there".

"I'd prefer much less. We've got to be aware that although in Southland we've had very low infected herd numbers we still can't get complacent and think the job's done. This is a wee wake-up call."

The spike, mainly affecting farms in Western Southland, was wildlife-related meaning it was passed on to stock by infected possums or stoats.

O'Brien said they could only guess what had caused the upsurge but until the wildlife was under control, TB would be here to stay.

The area in Western Southland was one of the long-term risk areas in Southland but a herd in Northern Southland, an area considered TB free, had also tested positive.

The effects of having a TB-infected herd could be huge.

Farmers who weren't trading or selling a lot of stock could generally ride it out but for those sharemilking or trading there could be massive impacts on income, he said.

Nationally, there were about 70 infected herds, 58 of them in the South Island.

TBfree has a national strategy to clear 2.5 million hectares of TB by 2026. In the first three years of that 15-year plan it had eradicated TB from 800,000ha.

Federated Farmers Southland president Russell Macpherson said farmers needed to be vigilant when bringing stock in from other provinces with high levels of TB as well as vectors on their own farms.

People became a bit complacent about control because TB levels weren't high, he said. "We've got to keep a foot on the throat."

The Southland Times