OSPRI’s new energy underpins NZ farming

Date 7 October 2019

The Kiwi farmers whose levies support OSPRI’s work agree that New Zealand relies on a strong reputation for the primary produce to form the backbone of our exporting economy.

The world needs to be assured that the meat and milk from our grass-fed animals is safe, nutritious and free of disease. With booming populations and global political uncertainty, quality assurance is increasingly important and OSPRI’s new energy is helping ensure New Zealand’s continuing leadership.

A joined-up approach to biosecurity and traceability provides that assurance, and is crucial to defending our borders from diseases such as bovine TB, Mycoplasma bovis and (the thankfully absent) foot-and-mouth disease. OSPRI is working alongside MPI during its overhaul of New Zealand’s biosecurity framework to ensure a robust response to any disease incursion or threat.

The arrival, about two years ago, of Mycoplasma bovis highlighted some weakness in the country’s disease response protocols, and in the national animal identification and tracing system, NAIT.
Recognising and rebuilding the system’s capabilities has been addressed in consultation with farmers and industry shareholders. Now two workstreams – disease management and traceability – form the foundation of OSPRI’s strategic framework.

The company’s recently released five-year strategic plan is designed to deliver these key outcomes. They’re enabled by our core strengths – a strong culture and capability, stakeholder support, superior information systems and broad government and industry support for our programmes.

The traceability data needed for the Mycoplasma bovis response helped improve the NAIT system by encouraging all farmers to register and helped establish an eradication strategy for the disease. Even though the NAIT system is compulsory, there are still farmers who need help to be fully compliant and realise that NAIT is their system, protecting their businesses. Farmer ownership is critical to NAIT’s success.

Animal health and disease management is imprinted in OSPRI’s DNA. The eradication of bovine tuberculosis (TB) has been part of OSPRI’s skill set since it evolved from the Animal Health Board, and the TBfree eradication programme is recognised as world-leading.

A carefully balanced combination of TB testing, possum control and stock movement controls has brought infected herd numbers down from 1700 at the peak in the mid-90s to about 30 today. While that seems like a manageable problem, a far greater risk comes from TB-infected possums passing the disease between wildlife and livestock.

Any retreat from a programme of coordinated possum control could easily see TB come flooding back – as happened in the 1980s when funding was cut because the problem was thought to have been beaten.

Removing TB from possums is the focus of TBfree trapping and poisoning operations on the ground and from the air. OSPRI manages this vital work with a handful of trusted contractors, consults widely with all land users, and adheres to the strictest health and safety requirements.

The last herds are projected to be clear within the next decade (by 2026), and TB removed from possums by 2040. New Zealand is on target to eradicate bovine TB by 2055 and will be among the only countries in the world to achieve eradication.

Farmers and global markets can depend on OSPRI to provide assurance about the health and status of farm animals. Supporting the success of farmers is our motivation, and world class disease management and traceability is our mission.
If you’d like to know more about OSPRI, read the 2019-2024 Strategic Plan here.

CEO Stephen Stuart 400p

CEO Stephen Stuart: 'Supporting the success of farmers is our motivation, and world class disease management and traceability is our mission.'