Being ready for a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak is just as important for lifestyle farms as it is for large-scale farms

An outbreak of FMD in New Zealand would seriously impact our economy and cause major disruption for anyone involved in primary industries, including lifestyle farmers, regardless of how few stock they have.

What is FMD and how could it get here?

FMD is a highly contagious viral disease. It affects all cloven-hoofed animals (with hooves split into two toes) such as cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, deer and llamas. It doesn’t affect horses, dogs, cats or poultry and is not considered a threat to human health.

FMD spreads quickly and before infected animals show symptoms. Many farms could be infected by FMD before we find the first case in New Zealand.

To date, New Zealand has never had an outbreak of FMD. Due to our geographical isolation and strict border controls, the risk of it arriving here is low. However, FMD has recently been detected in Bali, a popular destination for kiwi travellers.

The most likely way that FMD could enter New Zealand would be through illegally imported contaminated animal products which are then fed to pigs.

How is FMD spread?

FMD can spread:

  • through direct contact between infected and susceptible animals
  • when infected meat is fed to susceptible animals
  • by objects or people that come into contact with infected animals
  • by wind or water – particularly from infected piggeries. The wind can carry the virus up to several hundred kilometres.

Infected animals can spread the virus through:

  • breath and saliva
  • meat and milk
  • manure or other waste products
  • semen or blood
  • contamination of mud or soil by hooves.

The virus can survive several months without a host (for example, in soil) under favourable conditions.

Signs and symptoms

  • High fever for 2 or 3 days.
  • Blisters or sores around the mouth, muzzle, feet and teats.
  • Drooling, tooth grinding and chomping.
  • Lameness (limping) or a tendency to lie down (pigs may also squeal when walking).
  • Shivering or raised temperature.
  • Lethargy or depression.
  • Drop in milk yield for cows.
  • Death of young animals.

What would happen if FMD is discovered in NZ?

An FMD outbreak would trigger the declaration of a Biosecurity Emergency under Part 7 of the Biosecurity Act 1993 (section 144, Declaration of a biosecurity emergency and section 145, Emergency powers).

Declaring a Biosecurity Emergency would provide very broad powers to MPI for the management of the outbreak and to facilitate disease control. These powers could cover surveillance, investigation, movement control, organism management and other powers to manage the crisis.

You can see more details here.

Being ready for an FMD outbreak is a team effort

One of the first steps to take to stop the spread of the FMD virus if an outbreak occurred here would be to halt movements of ALL susceptible animals across New Zealand, until we have a clear idea as to how widely the disease may already have spread. Once this is known controls will be narrowed to those areas where the disease is present. As you can imagine, this would be a huge task. The sooner we can eradicate FMD the sooner life will return to normal for all owners of livestock, as well as for our livestock sectors.

Lifestyle farmers can help both themselves and MPI by registering on FarmsOnLine. By doing this, you’ll make it a lot easier for MPI to keep you informed and provide guidance in the event of a serious biosecurity outbreak, like FMD, or a natural disaster. So, we encourage you to register now to make sure you don’t miss out on crucial information.

Find out what MPI is doing to be ready for an FMD outbreak in New Zealand

If you’d like to keep up to date with MPI’s continuing work with the livestock industries to make sure we’re ready for the unlikely event of an FMD outbreak, subscribe to MPI’s e-newsletter Viral News: Spreading the word, not the disease.