Guy Trafford finishes 2018 with a GDT review, news of a new Fish & Game river survey, calling out plant-based-milk, and an update on the MPB eradication

Guy Trafford finishes 2018 with a GDT review, news of a new Fish & Game river survey, calling out plant-based-milk, and an update on the MPB eradication

By Guy Trafford

An ever so slight increase in the Global Dairy Trade price for whole milk powder with a +0.3% lift. It may not put much of a smile on farmers faces but at least it is a not a drop.

Overall the GDT went up by +1.7% with both butter and cheddar making gains with lifts of +4.9% and +2.2% respectively so not such a poor result. With this now being the second - be they small - lift in a row and we have to go back almost 12 months before we had a repeat of two consecutive sales lifting. Dairy Futures had predicted a higher 3% lift in WMP for this period and with volumes sold down 0.7% on the previous sale, which was also down, the remainder of the season still looks precarious. The next sale is on the 2nd of January 2019.

Fish & Game have targeted Canterbury dairy farmers yet again, this time finding pathogens linked to kidney failure and potentially sourced from ruminants. The findings showed the presence of an antibiotic-resistant E. coli and another dangerous strain of the bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).

Illness due to STEC occurs through:

  • eating contaminated raw food
  • drinking unpasteurized (raw) milk
  • drinking contaminated water
  • contact with infected animals
  • contact with the faeces of infected people.

The sampling was conducted from above and below large dairy farms on Canterbury rivers, however the release did not specify what differences occurred between the sites. The timing of the release is interesting given the sampling was done back in May and September. It is concerning that the regional council did not pick-up the pathogens in their regular testing or if they have why they have not highlighted the potential problem? If the issue is what Fish & Game believe it is then perhaps extending riparian strips outwards along waterways may be a solution which keeps everybody happy.

On a more positive dairy note, a dietician’s report has come out confirming what many have felt. That is the plant milk substitutes in the main are just flavoured water and if you are after something that can compare to an animal’s milk then they are a poor substitute. Even soy milk the most popular is fortified with a form of calcium that the human body struggles to absorb, unlike animals’ milk. The lack of being able to compete with true dairy products makes the ability to be able to still call it milk is somewhat galling and despite attempts by dairy farmers around the world to get the regulations changed or even adhered too little progress gets made. Perhaps something else to look forward to in the new year.

As some-one who was highly sceptical that the M.Bovis program could make progress on the disease it is pleasing to be proved wrong. It appears that the number of infected farms has been contained with few new ones being identified and increasing numbers being cleared of the disease and able to be restocked. Hopefully the new year will get rid of the bulk of the disease with just the mopping up left to be done.

Finally, a timely reminder has come out from Work Safe reminding farmers and those on the land to take care. The holiday period is a time when many people are visiting farms and not all are familiar with potential dangers. Work Safe’s warning covers everything from sunburn, to tractors rolling over, and given the unforgiving nature many farm injuries can result and the high incidence the farming industry suffers people need to take these warnings seriously.

Dairy prices

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12 Comments

Guy, I would like to be similarly optimistic with the mbovis eradication however there are so many holes in the system I am withholding the cheer for the self congratulatory MPI.
There were in May some 5000 (and still rising) forward contact farms. MPI at this stage decided they better stop publishing this figure.
They also went with testing and restricting movement on the most at risk of these contact farms. Um what about the others?
There is no method as yet to keep an eye on what is happening in the beef industry.
Only time will tell. The signs are positive for the dairy industry, but noone knows what has happened in the beef industry.

MPI are slow to publish what is happening. Their website is never up to date. It is a month since our last test and zippo no results.
There was a case in Taranaki a couple of weeks ago. Interesting because there was none of the usual...'this farm has been on our radar, its related to other farms with mbovis' and subsequently zip info. So where did this come from?
There is no go to for the latest info. We get the odd media briefing which is always just layers of dribble.

The timing, location, method etc of the F&G 'results' is suspect. The honourable thing to do would have been, in May and then in September, to immediately contact ECan for a verification/replication/audit sampling series conducted by real accredited scientists.

Instead, they wait for months, then inject the 'findings' into an already polarised public debate.

Guy thank you for your regular contributions to interest.co.nz. Really appreciated.
You and your family have a very good Christmas.
I'm looking forward to your articles in 2019.

But as a state of agriculture signal it appears the government owned Taratahi agriculture college is to be liquidated.
That should make some polytechnics tremble.
Agriculture training model is broken says the minister and a commentator on stuff implied the quality was bad and so was the culture.

Guy
Four new farms have been declared IP for Mycoplasma bovis this week, and 5 new farms have been added to the RP list (i.e. highly likely to go IP).
Last week another 5 farms were added to the RP list. That means 10 new RP farms in the last two weeks.
I know most but not all of these farms, and each has an interesting story.
Given the large number of surveillance farms (over 1000) and the thousands of additional forward traces, it is possible to claim almost every new infection on any Friesian-type herd as being a trace.But many of these traces are tenuous.
The farmer from one of the farms that has just gone positive believes there will be at least 25 forward traces and another 25 back traces from his farm alone. And so on...
And in total there are 25 RP farms likely to go positive plus lots of NODs waiting in line to be assessed.
So, at this stage the eradication is far from done and dusted.
But the good news is that there is a remarkable culture change occurring at MPI with the new CEO Ray Smith.
Farmers are now being treated with much more respect in their dealings with MPI, and it also seems likely that interim compensation payments will now speed up. This is already helping the morale of IP farmers.
Keith W

I just had a look at the map. And wow I thought it finally seems updated. From what you say Keith that is far from true. I hope Mr Smith shakes things up. His history suggests he is very capable.
Do you know Keith how these positive farms were discovered? Was it from the milk tests or were they suspects and blood tested?

Belle,
The pathways are mixed. Section 121 NODs involving slaughter of suspect animals for tonsils inspection is proving useful. I remain of the opinion that there are still a considerable number of needles in the haystack.
Keith W

I agree. When you get out and about amongst the saleyards you couldnt think anything else. Being mostly amongst the friesian herds, where the beef fatteners get their stock, it will be catching its breath.
The other major pathway is wholemilk and colostrum. I once used 40000 litres in a season. Which is nothing. I only reared 200 calves with it. It came from 6 different farms. So 3 (?) years ago til now, where did all the calf rearing milk go. No nait for that. It is starting to bother me that a lot of people are saying it looks beat.
My young vet certainly isnt buying that line.
If they are picking them up at the works via the tonsils, does that mean the blood tests havent been successful?

Belle,
The blood tests cannot discriminate between MB and some other conditions. Farms with high or increasing serology go NOD, but MPI seems to need PCR positive before declaring IP. On occasions they may declare a farm RP based on serology, but they then wait for PCR before going the final step.
There is still uncertainty as to whether PCR negative on tonsils is confirmation of MB negative. I am confident that is not the case as it can still be lying dormant.
In the case of milk, PCR negative definitely does not provide confidence the herd is clean. One has to test many times before having even moderate confidence.
Keith W

Thanks Keith. Do you know how long the general wait is for blood test results at present?
It seems pretty obvious this bug is clever. From your reply there seems to be agreement from the top to draw a line in the sand where there really isnt one. Therefore all that goes after is suspect. With what tools they currently have it may have been the only choice. However I feel they have not been clear with us who are paying the bill. Taxpayer and farmer. I believe if we were given all the information, firm beliefs may change. Backing for eradication might crumble. There is a significant lobby that wouldnt handle that well. Dairy. So we are treated as mushrooms. Kept in the dark etc etc

Belle,
According to MPI the delay between sampling and reporting back to farmers is currently (20 December) 4-6 weeks. This is contained in some advice that high level MPI officials have provided to farmers in Canterbury.

As of early December there were 193 properties under NOD and 384 properties on active surveillance. There had been 5100 properties on which traces had occurred.
Keith W