NZ Farmer - Farmers taking massive blow from disease cull to protect others

Kiwi farmers need all the support they can get as they shoulder the national burden of Mycoplasma Bovis, writes Andrew Morrison. 

OPINION: This time last year few of us had even heard of Mycoplasma bovis and now this disease is proving devastating to a group of cattle farmers.

We have seen the heart-wrenching scenes of farmers loading otherwise healthy cows onto trucks headed for slaughter and have listened to the descriptions from farmers who have to wake up every morning to the silence of farms devoid of livestock.

Last month, the Government with industry support made the decision to pursue a phased eradication of this production-limiting disease.

Knowing the pain it was going to cause some farmers meant that it was not a decision made lightly.  These farmers are taking a massive blow to protect the 99 per cent of farmers who don't have Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) on their properties. We, as an industry, need to do everything we can to support these people both financially and emotionally.

At the time of writing, around 200 farms are under movement control. This is out of 24,000 sheep beef and dairy farms and their long-term productivity could be severely impacted if this disease was left to spread unchecked.

Yes, it is going to cost us and while some of this cost will be front-loaded, ultimately attempting eradication is a good investment to protect the industries that underpin this country's economy.

While Government will pay the lion's share of the cost, DairyNZ and Beef + lamb New Zealand will contribute and this contribution will be calculated on an industry-specific basis, reflecting both the size of the industries and the relative impacts on the industries.

Having been around the table representing the beef industry during many of these discussions, I have been impressed with the way the stakeholders – particularly the government, DairyNZ, and Beef + Lamb New Zealand –  have been able to come together and agree on a way forward.

Through the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) model, industry and government are able to co-govern the response and through this co-governance, ensure transparent decision making.

This co-governance group is being guided by a Technical Advisors Group (TAG) made up of 10 international epidemiologists who have looked at the technical feasibility of eradicating M. bovis in New Zealand – and they believe it can be done.

There will be trigger points along the way to take stock of progress, ensure we are all the right track and assess new information as it becomes available.

While the co-governance group is doing its best to prevent the disease spreading, it is up to all of us individual farmers to play our part in protecting our businesses.

There is a raft of information and resources on the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand websites about how to do this and farmers are encouraged to phone their vets or MPI with any questions or concerns.

Most importantly, look after each other and support those who through no fault of their own are having to deal with this disease on their farms.