By Toni Williams
Mid Canterbury farmers voiced concerns over a lack of communication, compensation delays, tracing reliability and budget overruns in the decision to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, announced last week.
More than 600 people turned up to an open meeting with government and industry leaders in Ashburton, just days after the announcement. It was organised by Federated Farmers Mid Canterbury.
At last notification (end of May), Mid Canterbury had seven confirmed properties with the disease; 14 properties under restricted notice (RN), 16 properties under notice of direction (NOD) and 70 properties under surveillance.
Around 5000 animals were expected to be culled.
Agriculture minister Damien O’Connor said the compensation timeline was “hugely challenging”.
Incorrect, and misleading information did not help. However, if information was correct the first part of compensation should be received in four to 10 days.
“A bit of empathy and understanding of farm practices has been needed…but the system is getting better,” he said.
Negative M.bovis tests and a property under notice of direction were not enough to save one Mid Canterbury farmer from having his animals culled. Trace evidence linked the property to the farm of M.bovis origin and his animals were due to be collected the following day for cull, despite the negative tests. He questioned the process.
Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) response incident controller Eve Pleydell said if there was strong suspicion about a herd, and blood and milk tests were not positive, then the tonsil test was the last resort.
“The tonsil test can be done on trace animals, which is targeted but not for every group.
“It’s linked to tracing,” she said, of this decision.
Dr Pleydell confirmed not all culled cows were tested for the disease due to the sporadic nature of the bacterium, even in death.
“A lot more surveillance to be done, more bulk milk testing in the spring, when it’s a higher stress time so more cows will be shedding and it can be detected more easily,” Dr Pleydell said.
“Spring milk will give us the best idea of what’s out there.”
There was still work to be done on how to sample beef animals and replacement dairy stock.
National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) had proved a minefield for farmers/graziers wanting assurance clean cows were coming on to their properties with farmers up against “privacy” issues; which was to be investigated by the minister.
Those concerned about NAITs reliability were reminded it worked well when farmers recorded their stock movements. And it was up to farmers to consider their own farm’s biosecurity; especially where records were concerned.
Affected farmers were concerned there was a lack of direct communication and with inflated prices, wasted time and resources there was a fear costs would blow-out before eradication.
The Government and industry set aside $886 million, over 10 years and Mr O’Connor said cabinet was regularly updated on costs.