Bovine TB is an infectious disease that infects the lymph nodes in an animal’s head and body, as well as the lungs, liver and other organs (or offal). In New Zealand, TB outbreaks in beef and dairy cattle or deer herds can cause financial issues for farmers. Any stock infected with TB needs to be slaughtered, and farmers have restrictions placed on moving and selling their stock. This can put their livelihoods — and our export market — at risk.
At OSPRI, our goal is to eradicate TB from all host animals in New Zealand by 2055. As a hunter, you can help us achieve this by ensuring you know what to do when reporting, handling and disposing of animals you suspect are infected with TB.
TB spreads easily between animals, and possums are often the source of outbreaks in New Zealand. Possums, as well as stoats, ferrets and pigs, can contract TB through scavenging an infected carcass.
Once they’re infected, they can pass TB on to other animals like cattle and deer. For example, if TB bacteria is present in their lungs, their breath may be infectious. As cattle and deer are naturally curious, they'll sniff possums that stray onto farmland, and can become infected that way. This is often how TB spreads through both domestic and wild animals.
In wild pigs, TB infection is most often found in the lymph nodes (glands) under the jaw and alongside the intestines.
In deer, the lymph nodes behind the throat and at the join between the windpipe and the lungs are the most common site for TB.
The infection will usually be in the form of pus-filled abscesses or lesions that look like whitish lumps.
If you see evidence of TB in an animal carcass, or if you’re concerned the animal may be infected:
We’ll send someone out to investigate as soon as possible. They’ll take samples from the animal to test for TB, and will dispose of the carcass properly.
It's important to dispose of animal carcasses carefully when hunting.
If you dump heads or any other unwanted body parts, possums or other scavengers could find them. This could establish (or re-establish) infection in local possum populations, and lead to the disease passing to nearby cattle and deer herds.
Bovine TB can also infect humans. While the risk is small, you could get TB when cutting up infected wild pigs or deer. To lower your risk:
If you think you've been exposed to TB, contact your doctor or medical practitioner.
Dogs can also get infected with TB. We don’t recommend feeding raw pig heads or other offal to your dogs.