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Eradicating cattle disease M. bovis in New Zealand may be costly, even impossible, but we must try

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In May this year, the New Zealand government decided that it would attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, a bacterial disease that affects cattle.

A phased eradication means that an additional 126,000 livestock will need to be culled, at an estimated cost of NZ$886 million.

Here’s what we know, what we don’t know and what’s at stake.

Read more: Australian agriculture’s biggest threat needs a global approach

M. bovis causes mastitis and arthritis in adult cattle and pneumonia in calves. It is found around the world, but New Zealand was one of the last disease-free countries until the detection of infected cows on a dairy farm in July 2017.

We can’t be sure that M. bovis didn’t arrive in New Zealand before the current outbreak, but the Ministry of Primary Industries has tested for the disease over the years and not found it. This has involved checking animals with symptoms similar to those caused by M. bovis as well as large-scale test of bulk tank milk in 2007.

In addition, all countries with M. bovis – including Australia, where less than 4% of dairy herds are affected – have had........

© The Conversation