South Canterbury transport operators meet to discuss Mycoplasma bovis issues

8 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJune 8, 2018

In July 2017, the bacterial infection Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) was found in cattle in the Oamaru area of the South Island.

The Government, along with the dairy and beef industries, have agreed that an attempt will be made to eradicate M. bovis.

As at 28 May 2018 the disease was still not widespread (37 infected farms and some 260 suspect farms out of 20,000) and there is just one strain of the disease here. While eradication won‘t be easy, all parties agree that if they don‘t try now, they won‘t ever get another chance.

A group of South Canterbury transport operators met on Thursday to collectively discuss the issues associated with transportation of the diseased animals and seek some guidelines going forward.

“All we did was meet as a group of transport operators to voice our common concerns,” said a representative for the group. “The next step for us is to have a meeting with MPI and other associated authorities. I guess what we‘re trying to do is address some issues that should have been addressed some time ago and that is the standing of stock and the washing facilities at processing plants.”

The group‘s purpose was about getting some things in place with MPI to try as an industry to properly manage M. bovis.

“What we‘ve said as a group is we don‘t want to be involved in the whole NAIT [National Animal Identification and Tracing] thing, that‘s not what transport operators should be involved in, that‘s really up to the farmers and the processors to deal with that.

“It‘s about facilities at processors. When we arrive at a processing plant, we need to have the facilities to wash a truck out before we go to another farm, to know that we‘ve got the ability to wash out properly before we go somewhere else. At the moment we just haven‘t got that, we‘ve got plants that have got substandard washing facilities.”

The operators said that while they know of at least one or two plants that have tidied up their wash facilities, it was something that should have been done some time ago.

“This whole disease thing has highlighted the substandard facilities that these places have. That‘s something we need to be pushing the ticket on.”

The group says the other important thing is how essential it is for farmers to stand their stock before it is transported.

“If they do that it means a reduction in the effluent going into trucks and the reduction in the amount of time and effort in cleaning the truck out, which all has an associated cost. If the farmer plays his part, well, it‘s going to be a whole lot better for everybody.”

All agree that additional costs will have to be passed on to the customer.

“In the case of M. bovis where we‘re dealing with restricted and infected properties, that‘s already established that that cost has to be passed on while they deal with that, but certainly in notices of direction properties, and if a farmer requests that he‘s going to need washing out, then that comes at a cost and that will definitely be passed on, there is no way around it.”

This group of rural operators view the recent issues as an opportunity to try and correct the existing culture and make improvements.

“This has highlighted some real shortcomings in the whole animal industry.

“An example might be you‘ve got a clean truck, you go to a farmer‘s place to pick up the stock – now in an ideal world that stock has been stood and there‘s not going to be a whole lot of effluent by the time you get to the processing plant, so that‘s the first thing. When you do get to the processing plant there‘s going to be effluent whether you like it or not, it‘s just a matter of the amount. We should have the ability to wash out our truck and have it in a clean, presentable condition the same as when we went to the farmer‘s place, to then go and pick up the next farmer‘s stock and do the whole process over again. We shouldn‘t have to go and find our own facility to wash out, that‘s just not part of the chain of responsibility, that‘s the responsibility of the processor really.”

All agreed that even processing plants that have washing facilities are finding it hard to cope with the number of trucks they deal with every day.

“As the processing of stock has got more intense and greater in its magnitude, those facilities haven‘t grown at the same pace, so what you‘ll find is that most processing plants will have a single bay for washing out trucks. They might be receiving god knows how many trucks an hour, and each of those trucks take a good hour to wash out and there‘s no way in the world they‘re going to get through, that‘s probably why they‘re driving off. But this disease has highlighted the fact you just can‘t do that any more, you‘ve got to leave that ‘crap‘ if you like, at the destination because that‘s part of the animal and it‘s got to be left behind.”