Published: Thu, May 31, 2018
Research | By Dana Schwartz

New Zealand to cull over 100,000 cows to eradicate Mycoplasma

New Zealand to cull over 100,000 cows to eradicate Mycoplasma

DairyNZ today stood with the government in support of the united decision to take our one chance to eradicate the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, described as "difficult" the decision to implement this plan, which aims to curb a disease that affects farm animals but which could also be extended to wild animals. The cost of the eradication program is estimated at 886 million New Zealand dollars ($616 million) over ten years.

The Government would meet 68% of that cost and DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand would meet 32%. Some experts fear the decision will come at a huge cost. They are not considered a threat to food safety, but do cause production losses.

Murray Jagger who operates a 650-dairy cow and 250 dairy/beef enterprise at Whangarei Heads says, "the spread of M bovis is bordering on a national disaster and it is really important to the industry this option is pursued".

"We've worked hard to get the information to make this call and I know the past 10 months have been hugely uncertain for our beef and dairy farmers".

"We all agree that while there remains a chance to get rid of this disease, we should take it", he said.

"The fact that M bovis is now in the country indicates New Zealand's biosecurity is still at risk - there are obvious gaps in the system and things need to be tightened up".

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Ashburton dairy farmer John Jefferson, who farms 560 cows in the hot zone where numerous 37 infected properties are located, was "a little surprised" and thought the decision-makers could be in for disappointment. These include finding the disease is more widespread than our surveillance and modelling anticipates or a property is found that pre-dates the earliest known infection of December 2015.

"This is a tough time, and the pain and anguish they're going to go through is really ugly", she said of the affected farmers.

"It won't work without farmer support".

Importantly, the government promises to improve the compensation claim process.

It has been made clear by the officials that all the cows belonging to an infected farm will be killed even if they are healthy. Of this, $698 million is the loss of production borne by farmers and $520 million of response costs.

Government and farming sector leaders agreed to a phased eradication plan, rather than long-term management of the bacterial cattle disease.

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