A just released report shows efforts to rid the cattle disease M-Bovis from the country are on track and eradication is likely to be achieved.
The disease which can cause lameness and mastitis was first detected on a South Canterbury farm in July 2017.
In 2018 the government committed to eliminating the disease over 10 years.
The latest report from the independent Technical Advisory Group (TAG) shows only three active infected properties remain, down from 34 two years ago, and once cleared the programme will move onto surveillance.
The report was prepared for the Ministry for Primary Industries.
The report found there have been notable improvements in the timeliness of tracing and casing of herds and management of confirmed infected herds since 2019.
The TAG made 14 recommendations for the Programme, all of which are accepted by the Ministry for Primary Industries.
The group found that improvements to the Programme meant it was in a good position to deal with any further infected farms identified, which was likely given some farms' previously poor recording of cattle movements and the likelihood that unidentified small pockets of infection may remain to be found.
Director of the M-Bovis eradication programme Stuart Anderson said the TAG found the recent Canterbury cluster could most likely be explained by unrecorded animal movements, and they recommended the likelihood that the Five Star Feedlot could be a possible source of infection be examined closely.
"Since the TAG first considered information in December, we have looked into this property closely, tested animals and traced movements," he said.
"In the Programme's view there are more likely sources from within the cluster of infected farms itself, such as animal movements, shared grazing, insecure boundaries between neighbouring properties and sharing of dairy platforms.
"However, out of an abundance of caution, and in co-ordination with the feedlot's owners, ANZCO, we've placed a buffer area around the feedlot that will remain free of cattle until it is cleared of M. bovis. This is on top of the already strict biosecurity measures that are in place and being adhered to."
Over the coming months, the Programme will work closely with ANZCO on depopulation of the feedlot. The exact timing of this has not been determined and needs to be planned well in advance.
"The feedlot is of significant economic importance to the local community and careful consideration is required to minimise the impact of the depopulation exercise on all those connected to it," Stuart Anderson said. "This includes not only the feedlot's staff and contractors, but also the farmers nationwide who supply it with livestock and feed grains."