16 Jul 2019

School calf days get go-ahead with M bovis precautions

12:12 pm on 16 July 2019

The Ministry for Primary Industries has given school calf days the go-ahead this year, but says extra precautions will need to be taken due to Mycoplasma bovis.

Last year, rural schools were advised by the ministry not to go-ahead with calf shows and risk spreading the debilitating cattle disease further.

But this year that position has been relaxed and it has instead sent out information packs to over 1000 rural schools reminding them of precautions they must take when taking calves to school, to keep the risks of infection to a minimum.

The information packs contain advice on how to transport and hold calves, ideally in separate pens, or at least two metres apart, and with their separate water and food containers.

Dairy NZ's technical veterinarian advisor Nita Harding said calf club days, held in late winter or early spring, were an event rural communities looked forward to.

"It's a lovely social event for our farming families, so they can all get together and really have a day off the farm," Dr Harding said.

In New Zealand the main way M bovis is spread is through the movement and close contact of animals or through calves drinking infected milk, she said.

"If we can put some things in place to minimise the risk of that happening then we can calf club with minimal risk of transferring disease during the event."

The extra precautions were realistic and would be able to be implemented by rural schools, Dr Harding said.

"I mean most calf club calves are halter trained, so [it will be about] having a halter on them so they're under control and having a bit of parental supervision just to make sure things don't get away on the kids as well," she said.

Dr Harding said in light of the disease, some farming families might still opt to send along a lamb or a goat instead of a calf this year.

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