Min­is­ter cyn­i­cal about M. bo­vis Min­is­ter talks to Makur¯ı’s farm­ers on M. Bo­vis plan

Bush Telegraph - - Focus On Farming - By STEVE CARLE´

Neigh­bour­ing farm­ers to the M. bo­vis dis­ease in­fected Rangedale Land­corp farm east of Pahiatua met for the fourth time at Makurı¯ on Thurs­day to hear di­rectly from the Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture, Damian O’Connor, about the re­cent de­ci­sion to con­tinue with phased erad­i­ca­tion of M. bo­vis.

He had only just flown back from a meet­ing in Ash­bur­ton the night be­fore where 600 frus­trated farm­ers turned out in force, but made the ef­fort to drive out to Makurı¯.

“It’s a bug­ger — no one wanted this when it was first dis­cov­ered. I think it was un­der­es­ti­mated be­cause it didn’t shut down the trade bor­ders overnight,” said Damian O’Connor.

“There was a bit of a ca­sual ap­proach to it across the board — it’s not Foot and Mouth, it’s ok to eat. Up to 180,000 tests have been car­ried out now. It’s a curse of a dis­ease. From a farm­ers’ per­spec­tive, you didn’t know whether you’ve got it or not, it’s hard to test for, you don’t know whether the an­i­mals are go­ing to re­act or not and there are a lot of un­knowns which means how to man­age it is an un­known as well.

“As we’ve worked through to find out how it came in af­ter test­ing on the Win­ton prop­erty in the South Is­land, it was found to be just one strain of the dis­ease. We started the cull and learned more as we went on ev­ery day. We had dis­cus­sions with the in­dus­try lead­ers and they came up with con­sen­sus on it.

“It didn’t take too long to work out that we’ve got a chance, let’s go for phase erad­i­ca­tion. If you want to knock down the in­fec­tion and get rid of it, even long-term man­age­ment de­pends on hav­ing less of the in­fec­tion than you want.

“We have made the de­ci­sion, Cabi­net has com­mit­ted a lot of money and in­dus­try and farm­ers will have to com­mit some as well to that. The con­sen­sus at the Ash­bur­ton meet­ing was that we’re com­mit­ted to erad­i­ca­tion, so we’ll move on down that path.

■ “It’s go­ing to be re­ally hard for peo­ple who will see their herds taken. “We will say to farm­ers “how do you want to phase it or how do you want to work it?” Ev­ery farmer is in a dif­fer­ent si­t­u­a­tion. There is a num­ber of chal­lenges: around the Pri­vacy Act (this is be­ing de­bated with the Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner) how much can be dis­closed to who? In my view, all neigh­bours should be no­ti­fied, it’s very com­plex, very chal­leng­ing. We’re putting the most se­nior staff on to man­age that.”

■ Land­corp is go­ing to Massey to try and work to­gether to de­velop a test that gives a bet­ter in­di­ca­tion of in­di­vid­ual an­i­mal in­fec­tion rather than herd in­fec­tion. “If we can nail that, we’d all be bet­ter off. We wouldn’t have to kill healthy an­i­mals. There’s an emo­tional re­ac­tion to this from the pub­lic 192,000 an­i­mals are to be culled from 20,000 farms. That’s 1 per cent. In do­ing this we can pro­tect the 99 per cent from what is go­ing to be a cost to pro­duc­tion and an ad­di­tional cost to man­age­ment where we’ve got to man­age a fu­ture with M. bo­vis,” said the Min­is­ter.

■ Emil Mur­phy, se­nior pol­icy ad­vi­sor MPI, said neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ties will be part of tar­geted sur­veil­lance. The key is trac­ing the dis­ease faster than it is spread­ing.

■ “No one’s ever done it — we should have a go,” said Damian O’Connor. “My fa­ther had a say­ing that if you are go­ing to buy a bull, check the breed­ing of the per­son sell­ing it, not the breed­ing of the bull. There’s some wis­dom in that. You’ve got to work with trusted sell­ers and you’ve got to trust the per­son.

“I was flab­ber­gasted when I found out that NAIT num­bers go to peo­ple, not to in­di­vid­ual prop­er­ties. There are some ma­jor flaws in the NAIT sys­tem that we need to im­prove,” he said.

■ A farmer at the meet­ing said “there’s an is­sue for stud breed­ers who are afraid of the false pos­i­tives of 1 per cent for se­men and 4 per cent for blood. It’s a poi­son chal­ice. We’re all afraid of be­ing tested,” he said.

The Min­is­ter said that an­other 50 peo­ple are com­ing on board this week to boost the num­bers at Biose­cu­rity New Zealand.

Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture Damian O’Connor talk­ing about the com­plex­i­ties of M. bo­vis at a Makur¯ı meet­ing of neigh­bour­ing farm­ers to Rangedale, the Land­corp M. bo­vis-in­fected farm east of Pahiatua.

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