NZ orders mass 126,000 head cattle cull

Beef Central, 29/05/2018

Image: Beef+Lamb New Zealand


THE New Zealand government has announced 126,000 beef and dairy cattle will be culled in the next two years in a bid to eradicate the bovine disease Mycoplasma bovis from the country.

M. bovis has been spreading in the country since July last year. It is said to cause abortions and pneumonia in cattle, but poses no risk to humans, food or milk safety.

The disease spreads in two ways: by animal-to-animal contact and by feeding infected milk to calves.

The NZ Government and farming sector bodies announced the mass cull yesterday, saying all agreed the dramatic move was the best action to protect the national herd of dairy and beef cattle and to give farmers certainty.

The NZ Government said the disease is still not widespread. Of the country’s 20,000 cattle farms, 37 are currently classified as infected farms and some 260 are considered ‘suspect’.

Only one strain of the disease has been detected in the country.

“Eradicating Mycoplasma bovis won’t be easy, but if we don’t try now, we will never get another chance,” an NZ Govt media statement announcing the cull said yesterday.

All cattle on infected farms and future infected farms, plus some high-risk farms under movement controls, will need to be culled, the statement said.

“This means about 126,000 cattle from about 190 farms will need to be culled – most in one to two years.

“This is in addition to the current cull underway (the Govt had earlier ordered the culling of about 23,000 cattle, about half of which are understood to have now been slaughtered).

The timing of any cull will be worked through with individual farmers to minimise impacts on production.”

“We will continue to trace all potentially affected cows, and test and cull herds with infected animals in them. This tracing, testing, and culling will continue until ongoing regular surveillance finds no remaining evidence of Mycoplasma bovis.”

The Government statement said compensation will be available for anyone who has verifiable losses as a result of directions they are given by MPI under the Biosecurity Act to manage Mycoplasma bovis.

Farmers whose animals are being culled will receive an initial payment for the value of culled stock within two weeks of a completed claim being lodged.

The government has estimated the cost of the phased eradication response at $886 million with 32 percent (approximately $278 million) of this being paid by the dairy and beef sectors.

The split between dairy and beef is being worked through under the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) framework as mandated by farmers, but it is thought the beef industry’s contribution will be very small due to the relative value of the industries involved and because the impact on beef production is expected to be limited.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) said it supported the decision announced by the Government to attempt phased eradication of Mycoplasma bovis (Mp. bovis) from New Zealand.

“This has been a difficult decision to reach, and we acknowledge that it won’t please all farmers,” says B+LNZ Chairman Andrew Morrison.

“As a Southland farmer near to one of the epicentres, I am well aware of the impact of this response on farmers, their families and our communities.

“However, with only a limited window in which to attempt to eradicate Mp. bovis, the decision to continue eradication efforts has been made with the best long-term interests of the wider pastoral sector in mind.

“This is a stressful time for farmers. Farms that are infected, or are under movement restrictions, are under huge pressure and the uncertainty and anxiety spreads much wider than those directly affected, right across our rural communities. Today’s decision provides certainty for the sector on the next steps.

“For Beef + Lamb New Zealand, it is fundamentally important in a close decision like this that we have the opportunity to review the phased eradication approach at defined trigger points to ensure the course we are following makes sense.

“This will be a key part of planning in the weeks and months ahead, and our hope is that with a united effort, the difficult challenge of phased eradication can be met with the minimum of pain,” said Mr Morrison.

Sam McIvor, Chief Executive of B+LNZ, said B+LNZ ’s involvement in the collective decision making around the phased eradication of Mp. bovis has been important in ensuring that the interests of beef farmers are represented and taken into account.

“While there will be difficult times ahead for farmers, B+LNZ is committed to continuing to be a strong voice for farmers and will work with Government to ensure a robust support system is in place for those affected by Mp. bovis, as well as complete transparency around decision making.

“During the phased eradication programme, B+LNZ will increase its assistance for the Rural Support Trust to help farmers who are affected, as well as increasing our support activities including providing practical on farm advice to manage biosecurity risks specific to Mp. bovis. We will also work alongside government to source the significant number of additional personnel that will be needed to pursue phased eradication.

“B+LNZ will also be urging government and industry partners to fast-track improvements to NAIT and the introduction of electronic Animal Status Declarations (eASDs) which we know are critical tools for improving traceability in our industry.

“There will be a comprehensive series of meetings across the country over the next few weeks led by the Ministry for Primary Industries to ensure all farmers have a clear understanding of the plan from here forward, and the best actions for individual farmers to take to protect themselves.   B+LNZ strongly encourages farmers to attend these.”

More information on these meetings will be available on B+LNZ’s website


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