Bovine TB is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis. It’s dangerous to both animals and people — it has a major impact on human health in many parts of the world.

In New Zealand, cattle and deer are the species at greatest risk of contracting the disease. Possums are the main wildlife carrier of bovine TB here, and contact with infected possums is a major cause of herd infection.

If we don’t control the spread of TB in livestock:

  • our farming industry will experience production losses
  • we'll see major issues in animal health
  • our export industry's reputation will be affected.

The goal of the TBfree programme is to control and then eradicate TB, to protect our valuable dairy, beef and deer export industries. The objectives of the programme are to:

  • achieve TB freedom in livestock by 2026
  • achieve TB freedom in possums by 2040
  • prove TB freedom from all hosts across New Zealand by 2055.

Delivering the TBfree programme

We deliver the TBfree programme through a nationally co-ordinated programme that looks for the disease in all domestic herds through:

  • on-farm TB testing and meat works inspection
  • livestock movement controls, and
  • possum population management.

Possum control requires systematic, large landscape control of NZ's possum population. Over time, this will result in TB being eradicated from the possums.

How we monitor our progress

Each year we aim to reduce:

  • the number of TB-infected herds across the country
  • the number of possums in each TB management area (TMA) to a low and even level.

We have annual targets that help us monitor our progress. We also continue to invest in research, to help us improve how the disease is diagnosed, and the methods we use to control pests.