Letter: Bovine Tb

Last updated 15:48 16/07/2014

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After being declared free of bovine TB in early 2009, Southland was reinfected by a cow transported from the Coast in April 2010. Southland now has five TB infected herds.

TBfree Southland say three herds can be traced to infection by possum or stoats but offer no verifiable evidence of this.

The other two herds would have been infected by herd movement, of which no mention was made.

Since August 2009 I have traced information that reveals at least 43 herds in New Zealand have been infected by herd movement alone. These three herds mentioned as infected by possums or stoats are the first of this type I have seen reported in the same time.

Through this paper I ask TBfree Southland to give verifiable answers to the following questions.

Can they supply absolute, verifiable proof that the three herds mentioned were infected by feral wildlife?

Has a feral animal trapping programme been put in place to check local populations of these animals for TB?

In the last five years, has a trapped, or found, feral animal in Southland tested positive to TB?

Has a special testing area, and movement controls of around 10km, been placed around each of these TB infected Southland herds? If not, why not ?

If TBfree Southland ignore and don't answer these questions then we can only assume the information supplied in the article ''Rise in bovine TB jolt against complacency'' (June 11) was put together by the ''spin doctors'' of TBfree NZ.

RON EDDY
Wairau Saddle

TBfree Southland committee chairman Mike O'Brien replies: Southland was not declared ''free of TB'' in 2009 by TBfree New Zealand. Although there were zero infected herds at the time, there was still approximately 444,000 hectares of the Southland region designated a TB-risk area (vector risk area) where infected wild animals have been found.

This area includes 175,000 hectares of western Southland, 159,000 hectares of the Hokonui area and 110,000 hectares of the Catlins. My recent comments in the Southland Times clearly stated that the job was far from complete while TB still exists in wild animals. In TB risk areas, wild animals are responsible for the majority of new cattle and deer herd infections.

There are currently six infected herds in Southland. Three are due to local infected wild animals, all within the western Southland TB risk area, and in close proximity to one another. The other three infected herds are movement related.

Of the three herds infected by wild animals, 11 TB-infected ferrets have been trapped in the past 18 months either on the affected farms or in close proximity. The TB DNA strain type isolated from the wild animals and the affected herds is identical and is endemic in the western Southland TB risk area where the ferrets where trapped.

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TBfree New Zealand, which is managed by OSPRI, aims to eradicate the disease from the entire western Southland TB risk area before 2026. To do so, a comprehensive wild animal surveillance programme has been underway for a number of years and is planned to continue and intensify in the coming years.

Cattle and deer herds in the vicinity of the infected herds and where the TB infected ferrets were trapped are required to pre- movement test stock within 60 days prior to movement (except when going directly to slaughter). This measure affects approximately 35 herds within a radius of around 10 kilometres from the area at risk from TB.

- The Southland Times

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