Cow dis­ease compo beats US law­suit


OPIN­ION: So, My­coplasma bo­vis has fi­nally been con­firmed in Waikato. I know many farm­ers up this way will be feel­ing dis­ap­pointed, con­fused and an­gry that it has spread this far, seem­ingly un­able to be stopped.

Look­ing at the spread of the dis­ease it al­most seems in­evitable that it would ar­rive here.

It’s not a new strain that has just ‘‘popped’’ up out of nowhere, but has been de­tected by us­ing his­tor­i­cal an­i­mal trans­fers and stock move­ments.

AMin­istry of Pri­mary In­dus­tries (MPI) ‘re­sponse to date’ map de­tail­ing an­i­mal move­ments con­nected to what is con­sid­ered to be the South­land in­cur­sion in late 2015 re­sem­bles shot­gun pel­lets spread around the coun­try with all the no­tices of di­rec­tion and movement con­trol prop­er­ties (RPs and IPs).

I un­der­stand that the track­ing of the dis­ease has been slow, and this in part has been due to a poor up­take of the Na­tional An­i­mal Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and Trac­ing scheme (Nait), which is a com­pul­sory re­quire­ment on farm­ers.

But in fair­ness to farm­ers, Nait has not been ex­actly user­friendly so that has not en­cour­aged farmer en­gage­ment. The re­cent Nait re­view was long over­due.

What farm­ers are go­ing to need now is some surety of re­sponse, and per­haps more par­tic­u­larly how that re­sponse will be di­rected.

Un­til now the fo­cus of MPI has been con­tain­ment and a push for erad­i­ca­tion to try and re­turn the na­tion to its pre­vi­ous M. bo­vis-free sta­tus.

Now that I’ve seen the re­sponse maps I won­der if this is still a pos­si­bil­ity. Per­haps we need to con­sider a longer-term erad­i­ca­tion pol­icy or even a man­age­ment regime oth­er­wise we risk tremen­dous loss of an­i­mal life and stress for farm­ing fam­i­lies af­fected.

I would en­vis­age a Tb type of pol­icy where the in­fected an­i­mals would be culled, but the spe­cific herd be placed on movement con­trol and mon­i­tored un­til the ap­pro­pri­ate tests are shown to be clear over time as M. bo­vis is no­to­ri­ously hard to de­tect con­sis­tently.

Where a farmer is ad­versely af­fected com­pen­sa­tion needs to be paid promptly, not three or six months down the line as these peo­ple and fam­i­lies are op­er­at­ing busi­nesses, and no busi­ness can re­main vi­able with no cash­flow for that pe­riod.

Leg­is­la­tion states that no in­di­vid­ual or busi­ness should be bet­ter or worse off be­cause of MPI’s use of its biose­cu­rity pow­ers (in­clud­ing In­fected herds and cost of movement con­trols etc), but it is clear to me that these af­fected farm­ers are so far much worse off con­sid­er­ing the stress and per­sonal up­heavals that they are go­ing through.

And to all those me­dia com­men­ta­tors who reckon that the tax­payer shouldn’t be ‘bail­ing out’ the farm­ers, just be grate­ful that we don’t live in Amer­ica, the land of the law suit.

Farm­ers have ev­ery right to ex­pect our biose­cu­rity to pro­tect our in­dus­try from these types of in­cur­sions and quite sim­ply the sys­tem has failed them and is now cur­rently in the process of de­stroy­ing their liveli­hoods while in­flict­ing a huge emo­tional and so­cial toll on them.

That’s prob­a­bly a per­fect def­i­ni­tion of a class ac­tion law­suit if I’ve ever heard of one.

So, we need bet­ter and more ac­ces­si­ble in­for­ma­tion around M. bo­vis, and we need some­one to make the de­ci­sion as to how we deal with this longer term.

My per­sonal view is that en­tire herd erad­i­ca­tion is too ex­pen­sive, and while we don’t want it in the coun­try as an in­dus­try, the rest of the world has it al­ready and seems to man­age it ap­pro­pri­ately.

My thoughts are that our herds may take a bit of a hit but then the im­pact would be like Johne’s dis­ease. Who re­mem­bers thei­le­ria?

But farm­ers will need to change their be­hav­iour on record­ing stock move­ments, how we graze off-farm and even how we feed sur­plus or peni­cillin milk to calves.

How­ever, as farm­ers we are noth­ing if not adapt­able and given the right in­for­ma­tion and op­tions. we can get through this.

An­drew McGiven is the pres­i­dent of Fed­er­ated Farm­ers Waikato.


The MPI and farm­ing lead­ers held a meet­ing near Cam­bridge on May 25.

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