Government announces "phased eradication" of M. bovis by Thomas Coughlan

Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor speaks with Southland Rural Support Trust chairman John Kennedy

Politicians and industry leaders announced the ambitious plan Monday, May 28, 2018.

Mycoplasma bovis was first observed in the cows of South Island only but gradually it has spread up to the North Island also in the current year.

"We do believe we are taking it on at a point that it is possible to eradicate, and more than 99 per cent of farms don't have it, and we want to protect them from having it", she said.

Cabinet's decision to opt for eradication of Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand is a bold one and probably the right one, but will involve a lot of anguish and pain for farmers and must be closely scrutinised right through the programme. The disease most typically causes mastitis, swollen joints, pneumonia and ear infections. Even if cows appear to be healthy, officials will "kill all cows on any farms where the bacteria are found".

Federated Farmers, an advocacy organisation, said there were some farmers who opposed the cull but authorities needed to try to address the bacteria before it was too late.

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"This is a tough time, and the pain and anguish they're going to go through is really disgusting", she said of the affected farmers. They support farmers with information and advice on the practical aspects of the controls. About two-thirds are dairy cows and the rest beef cattle.

These are indeed large figures but they should be placed against the $8 billion economic contribution of the dairy industry, $2 billion from the beef industry, the country's reputation as a food producer and, perhaps most importantly, animal and farmer welfare. The cows will be killed in phases and the first phase will kill around 26,000 cows, process for which is already underway.

The full cost of phased eradication over 10 years is projected to be $886 million, with $16 million of that being a loss of production and $870 being the cost of the response.

The decision was taken to "protect the base of our economy - the farming sector", Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

"The majority of animals that we do cull in New Zealand are all healthy". "So if we have an opportunity to be the country that eradicates this disease, then we'll take it". It will only be clear by the end of year if the culling of the cows is working.

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