A Nelson farmer is fearing for his small herd of 30 cows in the wake of the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.
Luke King wants the Ministry for Primary Industries to quit culling cows in its effort to contain the bacterial outbreak.
The cattle disease has spread to 39 farms across New Zealand, with a Cambridge dairy farm the latest to have tested positive, and further farms are expected to be confirmed.
About 11,000 cows have been killed so far and that number will rise to 22,000 by the end of May.
“A guy down south is losing about 600 cows over the next five days,” King said.
“We’ve got 30 [cows] and the guy next door is sending his cows away for winter. What if they come back with it and we lose our 30? They’re our pets, they’re not just our milking cows.”
MPI needed to move into a management phase to treat the disease, as it wasn’t inherently fatal to cows, he said.
He understood M bovis was already in Nelson Tasman and the time to attempt limiting its spread was over.
“Why are they still going so aggressively at it even though they’ve lost the game?”
MPI Incident Controller Dr Catherine Duthie said there was one farm under a “Notice of Direction (NOD)” in Nelson Tasman, which meant it had received high risk forward cattle movements off an infected or suspect property.
“This doesn’t necessarily indicate infection,” she said.
“Many farms under these notices have returned negative test results so far. A NOD restricts the movement of risk goods off the farm only.”
Duthie said MPI couldn’t speculate on the likelihood of M bovis being confirmed in the Nelson Tasman region.
“We are working to contain the disease and the appropriate measure has been to cull animals and reduce infection risk.”
A decision by government and industry organisations was due within a fortnight as to whether this approach would continue, or if a “management” approach would be adopted.
Nelson Federated Farmers acting president Martin O’Connor said he backed MPI’s approach as it was a disease “we don’t want”.
“At the moment they’ve tracked it, and whether they’ve got enough resources to really handle it I don’t know, but I think they have to stick with their plan,” he said.
“You don’t change plans mid-stream. It’s no good for anyone. They’ve got to stick with it until they have more information.”
There was a lot of fear within the farming community as the confirmation of M bovis could “wipe the value of the herd”.
“It’s just a matter of being very careful about where your stock comes from and making sure you have good information.”
Farmers needed to comply with the rules of the national animal tracing scheme (NAIT), which was for their own protection.
Information from DairyNZ says M bovis is spread most commonly by nose-to-nose contact, as it lived in mucus membranes.
Cows could be infected without showing symptoms, making it hard to detect, but common signs included untreatable mastitis, swollen joints, and lameness.
In affected cows, mastitis doesn’t respond to normal antibiotics, and there was no vaccine against M bovis.
Farmers are advised to limit movement of stock and, when sourcing animals, inquire about health history of the source herd.
They could ask for bulk milk M bovis test results of the source herd and check equipment coming onto the farm was clean and dry.
They were also advised to maintain NAIT records and ensure Animal Status Declarations are fully completed and retained.
By: HANNAH BARTLETT