Dairy farmers enjoying record growth over a great autumn and early winter cannot shake off worrying about the Mycoplasma bovis cattle disease.
“Just when the grass is growing nicely and the cows looking good, all this erupts and makes life challenging again,” Manawatū/Rangitīkei Federated Farmers dairy chairman Murray Holdaway said.
Holdaway said he was dismayed that the number of farms under movement control, with known links to infected properties, “had “blown out well beyond what was expected”.
“It has eroded my confidence in the handling of the event and the resources (or lack of them) to make sure we get an effective response. Now having seen the map of all the infected farms and the connected farms, and how many of them there are, and how far they are spread across NZ , It would seem we have very little chance of eradication in the short term.”
He said it raised questions about the need to continue culling cows and whether farmers and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) could contain the spread and possibly eradicate at a later date.
“My concern last week was based around how close our farming operation is to the Pahiatua outbreak, but it has now moved on to thinking more about containment and on farm biosecurity.
“While there has been a lot of information for farmers about how to protect their farms, it now takes greater importance with the knowledge that more farms are involved in the outbreak.”
Holdaway said if a milking machine technician or a power board contractor came on to a farm there was a greater chance that they had previously been on a connected farm and were possibly carrying the disease.
“We need to have and use ways of mitigating the risk with all people and vehicles that enter the property. An education programme for service companies would be a good idea.”
He said compensation farmers for culled cattle was important and MPI must avoid any chance that some farmers might not notify suspect cases because of the financial consequences.
“MPI need to give clear signals to farmers that the best option is to notify any suspect case and that a fair compensation package will be delivered in a timely manner.”
MPI director of responses Geoff Gwyn said if all the information was supplied, compensation was often paid within 48 hours and they had more people from industry on the ground to help people impacted by the disease.
He said all cases of movement control, even though farmers felt numbers had skyrocketed, were linked to on-farm cases of M.bovis.
“There is not a massive spread of the Mycoplasma bovis across this region, Gwyn said at a recent Pahiatua meeting.
He said there had only been three cases so far in the North Island. The herd had been culled at a Hawke’s Bay farm and after the required six weeks the property had been re-populated with cows). The other confirmed farms with the disease were in Waikato and one near Pahiatua.
Gwyn said a decision would be made in the next two weeks by MPI, dairy and red meat leaders and the Minister of MPI Damien O’Connor on whether long term management or eradication would be best for New Zealand.
By: JILL GALLOWAY