Mycoplasma bovis (M.bovis) is a bacterial disease commonly found in cows all over the world. First detected in New Zealand in July 2017, it has affected a small number of farms in the South Island and Hawke’s Bay. The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) is working hard with farmers to control the disease and, if possible, eradicate it from New Zealand.

M.bovis causes a range of diseases in cows including mastitis that doesn’t respond to treatment, arthritis, pneumonia and late-term miscarriage. Although it affects cows, it poses no risk to food safety or human health. M.bovis is mainly spread through close and prolonged contact between infected animals, through the movement of stock, contaminated equipment and feeding untreated milk to calves. It’s not windborne, it doesn’t spread through streams or rivers and, thankfully, it is a relatively slow-moving disease.

Despite M.bovis not endangering the food chain, it’s imperative that it is not inadvertently spread when moving stock. Having healthy cows is vital to New Zealand’s economy.


Farmer and stock owner obligations when moving cows

M.bovis is an unwanted organism under the Biosecurity Act 1993. Anyone in charge of cows must comply with the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) regulations and all animal movements must be recorded and retained.

The outbreak of M.bovis highlights the importance of the NAIT recording system.

The NAIT scheme provides for cows to be tagged and registered in a national database which records an animal’s location, movements and contact details for the person in charge of that animal. The scheme provides traceability and enhances New Zealand’s ability to respond quickly to a disease outbreak such as M.bovis.

Moving cows between properties, and when sending cows to slaughter (with the exception of bobby calves), requires an Animal Status Declaration to be completed.


Restricted Place Notices and Notices of Direction

Under the Biosecurity Act, MPI can issue two notices to control stock movement:

  1. Restricted Place Notice: These are placed on any properties that are believed to have, or are suspected to have, M.bovis. This effectively places them under quarantine lockdown, and stock movement is restricted.
  2. Notice of Directions: Issued to farms when an inspector or authorised person considers that the movement of stock poses a risk of spreading M.bovis, eg: when animals from infected properties have been moved to a property but testing has not yet taken place or test results are pending.


Have a written agreement when buying cows

M.bovis can be difficult to detect, therefore having a written agreement in place when buying new cows provides protection for the purchaser and their existing herd. An agreement places obligations on the vendor, and provides the purchaser with warranties on the cows being purchased, such as information about animal health, including disease and treatment history. It can include a provision that a purchaser may reject cows, as at the purchase date, on the basis that they do not comply with the vendor warranties.       

An agreement will also provide the purchaser with the protection that should the vendor breach any of the warranties contained in the agreement, they can seek to enforce remedies for any loss suffered by them against the vendor. 

When buying or selling stock, we recommend having a written agreement. Do talk with us first to ensure that adequate protection and remedies are available to both purchaser and vendor.


Disclaimer: All the information published in Fineprint articles is true and accurate to the best of the author’s knowledge. It should not be substituted for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this newsletter. Views expressed are the views of the authors individually and do not necessarily reflect the view of this firm. Articles appearing in Fineprint may be reproduced with prior approval from the editor and credit being given to the source.  
Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2018. Editor - Adrienne Olsen, e.  p. 029 286 3650