New Zealand to cull 146,000 livestock to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis bacteria

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The New Zealand Government says it has one last shot at eradicating the country of Mycoplasma Bovis and it’s going to try.

Cabinet made a decision on Monday to push ahead with ridding New Zealand of the disease, which is on a scale never faced before.

Phased eradication could involve up to 190 properties out of more than 20,000 dairy and beef farms. It’s expected an additional 126,000 livestock will need to be culled on top of the 26,000 already earmarked for slaughter.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the decision to not switch to a management and containment plan was made collectively with farming sector bodies after months of intense analysis to understand the likely impact of M bovis.

“Speaking with affected farmers in recent weeks it is obvious that this has taken a toll, but standing back and allowing the disease to spread would simply create more anxiety for all farmers,” Ardern said.

While it’s an “ambitious plan” Ardern said she didn’t want to end up in a situation where she looked back and said “I wish we’d tried harder”.

Government and industry share cost

Phased eradication involves culling cattle on all infected properties and “high risk” properties – the bulk of that culling would be done in the next one to two years.

The full cost of eradication over ten years is estimated at $886 million – of this, $16m is loss of production and is “borne by farmers”.

The response, including compensation, is forecast to cost $870m and the Government will meet 68 per cent of the cost while DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand will meet 32 per cent.

Ardern said the Government had prepared for a “rainy day” in the Budget and was able to “carry a load like this”.

O’Connor made a guarantee that affected farmers would receive a substantial amount of their compensation within ten days of a claim being made.

“We’re speeding up the process to ensure nobody is squeezed financially as a result of this process,” he said.

Unfortunately “mass culls are necessary” because of the difficulty testing and identifying stock with the disease. As a result herds are having to be culled, which includes many cows that don’t have M bovis.

The alternative option was for long-term management, which was projected at $1.2b, and if nothing was done at all it’s estimated the cost to industry would be about $1.3b in lost production over the next decade.

‘One incursion’ behind the outbreak

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) director of response Geoff Gwyn said it’s become clear this disease outbreak is “one incursion and connected by the same network”. That means it “keeps us in the game for eradication,” he said.

Spring testing this year will provide an opportunity to reassess whether eradication is working – the results of which will come back in by December.

There is no cut off point for the Government and the farming sector in terms of how many cows would need to be culled.

Providing any new infected farms were still part of the original M bovis network, then culling would continue as long as necessary.

MPI expects more farms will be identified after spring testing but if they’re part of the same network then eradication would still be achievable – a “new cluster of farms” would mean eradication plans weren’t working, Gwyn said.

All infected farms found in the future will be depopulated and following that farms are disinfected and have a 60 day stand-down period before they can be restocked.

‘Pain and trauma’ for farmers

Federated Farmers supports the decision to try and eradicate but is well aware it will cause pain and anguish for more farmers.

President Katie Milne said getting rid of the disease is preferable to living with it for years on end.

“Now we have to crack on and give it our best shot to recover from this threat.

“But we have to remember the pain and trauma it is causing for the families involved now, and sadly the ones who will be involved in the future. We don’t even know who all those families are yet,” Milne said.

Affected farmers will get their own assigned case manager to deal with compensation and support.

DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel said farmers had been waiting for almost eleven months for some certainty and now they’ve got it.

“Over 99 per cent of our dairy herds in New Zealand have no signs of this disease, and we want to keep it that way.”

Investigation continues

The investigation into how M bovis got into the country is still underway and a further review into MPI’s biosecurity response will also be carried out.

National Party agriculture spokesman Nathan Guy said eradication seemed to be the best option but he was mindful of the “emotional toll” it would have on farming families.

“Often they’ve bred their cows over decades, they’re in love with them, it causes a lot of heartbreak seeing them loaded up onto a truck for slaughter – in effect taking one for the team,” he said.

If an individual or company was found to have brought M bovis into the country knowingly, Guy said he expected MPI to use “the full force of the law to deal with them”.

This article was originally published by Stuff.co.nz. Read the original here.

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