Support needed for TB-affected farmer
Stuart Husband knows how devastating a outbreak of bovine tuberculosis can be for a dairy farmer.
The Morrinsville farmer and Waikato regional councillor had one-third of his herd test positive for the infectious disease in 2013. At the time, it put a huge amount of stress on himself.
That is why it was critical the farmer affected by this latest case of TB received good advice and was supported to help them through what he said was a difficult time.
‘‘The big thing to realise is that it’s not the end of the world, you will come out the other end of it, but make the most of the network of people out there willing to help.’’
The disease has been found in a small herd of 200 dairy cows and 120 other cattle such as calves and replacement animals on a Matamata farm after a cull cow was identified as having symptoms of TB late last year at a meat processor.
OSPRI, the organisation which managed a programme for management and eradication of bovine TB, undertook a testing programme of dairy cattle from the herd along with the slaughter of a small number of calves.
The infected animal was found at routine post-mortem inspection at a slaughter facility, OSPRI national disease manager Kevin Crews said.
The infection was confirmed with laboratory culturing of Mycobacterium bovis bacteria. A follow-up TB testing of the herd continued to be conducted on the farm.
So far, just under 10 per cent of the cattle have been confirmed as TB infected.
Crews said OSPRI were working through options with the farmer and herd owner while testing and treatment of the herd were being completed.
Looking back, Husband said one of the mistakes he made was his attempt to keep the issue quiet.
‘‘It really was the undoing of me. You have to talk and get good, real support and that’s probably what I didn’t do enough of.’’
The farmer should also stay away from the stock truck if there were positive-tested cattle that had to leave the farm for slaughter, he said.
‘‘I loaded my own cattle onto the truck when they had to go and I think that was disastrous as you’re loading your own good cows on a truck to get killed. It’s really taxing.’’
He said the affected farmer should also get themselves and any employees tested for TB. The positive test would likely affect the value of the farmer’s herd and it was extremely important that the farm owner became completely informed about what TB was and supported the herd owner.
‘‘The really bad thing out of this equation would be if the farm owner said, ‘see you later,’.’’
Neighbouring farmers also had to get behind the affected farmer, Husband said.
‘‘Having TB was not leprosy and its very, very unlikely to be contracted through a fence. Whatever you do, don’t ostracise this person.’’
It is suspected the outbreak came from a cow brought onto the farm rather than from a possum because it was a vector-free area and had no recent history of TB infection.
A positive TB test was an emotional and financial blow to the farmer, Waikato TB free Committee chairman Chris Irons said.
‘‘It’s pretty raw at the moment from all accounts. It’s a shock...and it’s one of those things you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.’’
Farmer Stuart Husband says finding bovine tuberculosis in a herd is devastating.