NZ Farmer - Southland Rural Support Trust expects more farmer calls from strain of cattle disease

Written by Brittany Pickett

More farmers are expected to seek support in coming months as the government's Mycoplasma bovis eradication plan goes into full swing.

Southland Rural Support Trust chairman John Kennedy said the southern team had already been heavily involved in providing support for M. bovis affected farmers.

He said more calls for help from the trust would be likely towards the end of winter, as more farmers dealt with the disease.

Farmers will undergo a second round of bulk milk testing in spring, as part of the effort to eradicate the disease from New Zealand.

More positive results are predicted to come during calving because stress causes viral shedding, or the release of the virus from a host animal.

The Government has ordered the culling of about 126,000 cattle on top of the 26,000 already being destroyed, as a part of the $886 million phased eradication.

Kennedy said he hoped this time around notice of directions and restricted place notices would be issued promptly to minimise the risk of the disease spreading to neighbouring properties.

"The pressure around biosecurity is significant at the moment."

Farmers were feeling the pressure and the outbreak was contributing to a change in attitude when it came to on-farm biosecurity, he said. However, some of them had found it more difficult to adapt.

With a big focus on preventing M. bovis from spreading, farmers had been distracted from other topical issues in the region.

Kennedy said environmental challenges, including the Southland Water and Land Plan, were still going to contribute to a lot of anxiety farmers were feeling.

"I have noticed that the focus on Mycoplasma bovis has taken the focus off environmental pressures, but pressure is ramping back up again with the politics of it."

Rural Support Trusts are designed to help rural individuals and families get back on their feet after challenging circumstances.

Despite a challenging season in Southland, with a drought being declared as a medium adverse event in summer, calls for help had not drastically increased, Kennedy said.

"As for normal business things are creeping up slowly but not significantly."

He said most of the issues were the same that cropped up year-on-year including financial troubles and employment disputes.