NZ Farmer - Long term decision on cattle disease eradication planned in next seven days

Written by Gerald Piddock


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has met with Waikato farming leaders as they decide in the next seven days which direction to take to stop the spread of Mycoplasma bovis.

The cattle disease has been found on 38 properties around New Zealand and a farm near Cambridge is the latest to be confirmed positive.

Ardern and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Conno met with 15 farmers at an uninfected dairy farm east of Te Awamutu. Details of the meeting were off limits to the media, but Ardern fielded questions afterwards.

The discovery of the disease was a blow to Waikato farmers and Ardern wanted to hear first hand from those at the coal face the impact of it. "In the next seven days we are looking, based on technical advice and feedback from the industry, around the next steps."

Those steps would be taken in consultation with the farming industry and farmers were told a robust plan for dealing with M bovis was the main focus.

The industry was not the stage where it had to accept the disease was here to stay, Ardern said.

"We're not there yet and that's why we're getting the best advice from around the world that we can and that's why we're working with industry to make some of those long term decisions."

"We need to come up with a plan that's unique to the New Zealand situation."

Roto-o-rangi dairy farmer Dean Bailey said it was a good, healthy discussion with the prime minister.

Farmers were concerned about their herds getting infected and if it could not be eradicated, it would have to be managed. That could mean changes to how they farmed, greater biosecurity consciousness and lower stocking rates and intensification.

"It is a wake up call for the industry and that includes both government and farmers. It's not a problem until there's a problem, and now there's a problem."

Waikato Federated Farmers dairy chairman Ben Moore said Government and industry had a big decision ahead as it chose whether to keep eradicating the disease or switch to a management system similar to Tb.

"I think they are at a crossroads and they don't quite know what road to take at the moment. I think that decision is an important one and it's going to take time.

"There's still a mixture of views out there and we're trying to hear all of that and taking on board the technical advice to make a decision that no one regrets."

Susan O'Rega, who along with husband John Hayward hosted the event, said the discussion was a positive one. There had been a lack of clear information about the disease and once a plan was agreed, farmers would be happy to execute it.

She said choosing between eradication and management was a flip of a coin.

The Government initially had put aside $85 million but Ardern acknowledged that the outbreak could cost "much much more".

There had been conversations about farmers contributing to that cost and it was within everyone's interest that it was tackled head on, Ardern said.

"The industry has come to the table and said, 'yes, this is something that we can jointly fund."