Farmers’ frustration over cow disease


Frustration is evident among farmers as they await results from cattle being tested for the bacterial disease Mycoplasma bovis, without a timeline able to be given.
About 140 people attended a public meeting at Papakaio yesterday for the latest update on the outbreak confirmed on two of Van Leeuwen Dairy Group properties in the Waimate district.
The Ministry for Primary Industries’ regional controller Murray Pridham said there was no answer as to how long it would take to get results.
The testing programme was “quite complex” and took “quite a bit of time”. Only one laboratory had been available to use but work was being done to get other laboratories involved so results could be out quicker.
Farmers speaking both at the meeting and others spoken to afterwards questioned why the process could not be quicker.
“I know they are trying their best but have they just got enough resources?” North Otago dairy farmer Peter Borrie said.
While the tests were obviously quite involved, Mr Borrie questioned why samples could not be flown to Australia or even the United Kingdom, if necessary.
Mark Jellyman, who farms on the Waitaki Plains, said there were a lot of questions still to be answered and he had expected some results by now, while Kevin Malcolm asked why “worldwide resources” were not being used.
Keith Adams runs a beef breeding unit which shares a boundary with one of Van Leeuwen Dairy Group’s farms not one of the two that have returned positive tests.
He asked how he would know if his cows were carriers. He wanted to protect his herd and he did not think that beef farmers realised “what could happen yet”.
Mr Pridham was confident that extra laboratories would be able to deal with issues and he was not sure sending samples to Australia would be “any great benefit at this stage”.
The plan for the next week remained much the same sampling, monitoring, testing and surveillance. The aim continued to be eradication of the disease through containment.
Around 60 staff and contractors were working exclusively on the outbreak response “so we are putting resources into it”.
Incursion investigator Dr Tom Rawdon said a national bulk milk survey would also be done.
Walter Cameron believed it was in the best interests of New Zealand agriculture to destroy the stock on the group’s farms.
He wanted a show of hands from those attending, who wanted to see that happen, saying it was a major event in New Zealand for both dairy and beef farmers.
But former Federated Farmers’ national president William Rolleston said it was “far too early” to have that discussion and Hunter dairy farmer John Gregan said it was “not appropriate”.
Dr Rawdon said he did not believe that Mr Cameron’s viewpoint was everyone’s viewpoint. “We will work through a very strict assessment process on each of these farms and try and save as many of them (cows) as we can,” he said.
Otago Daily Times

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