Bovine TB took a big toll
The pain of losing a dairy herd to bovine tuberculosis is still there for Stuart Husband one year on. Gerald Piddock reports.
It has been said that time heals all wounds.
But for Stuart Husband, the pain of losing his dairy herd to bovine tuberculosis is still extremely raw one year on.
‘‘It was a bloody horrible experience and am I over it? Hell no, it’s going to take years.’’ What happened to his cows and the effect of discovering the disease within his herd remained at the forefront of his thoughts every day.
‘‘Every morning when I wake up, it’s the first thing that I think of and it’s the last thing I think of before I go to bed – what happened last year.’’ Husband spoke to the Waikato Times in August 2013 about how the ‘‘soul destroying’’ impact of the disease left him financially and emotionally devastated.
Aside from the hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial costs of replacing a whole herd and subsequent loss of production, the emotional and mental health recovery is a day by day process for the Waikato regional councillor.
The infectious disease was discovered in May 2013, in his then 400-cow herd on his Te Aroha farm, after a lesion was found in a non-pregnant cow he sent to the meat processors. Subsequent blood testing revealed 106 of his cows were TB positive.
When something like this hits you, it’s like you’ve lost everything, he said at the time.
The farm was placed under movement control by TB-Free New Zealand.
His 400-cow herd on the farm were cattle he bred himself that he knew by name. The discovery of the disease came as a huge personal blow.
The farm was leased to Husband and the owner did not renew the lease following the outbreak and Husband walked off the farm.
‘‘It’s basically ended my tenure on that farm, so I lost the herd.’’ But it was also a blessing in disguise from a mental health perspective, he said.
‘‘I wouldn’t have walked away if it was all about money. It’s mental health – I had to get out, enough was enough.’’ He took the advice of his children and walked away from the farm.
‘‘With the emotional and mental carnage that went on, my kids just said to me – get out. It was time to go,’’ he said.
He purchased a small farm at Waihou, where he milks 100 TBfree heifers.
‘‘It doesn’t make up for the lost calf club cows, the lost years of building the herd up.
‘‘It’s starting again.’’ Looking back, Husband said he learned that TB is a very difficult disease to control and in his opinion, was spread on the back of a stock truck.
While groups including Federated Farmers and Rural Women New Zealand were terrific in their support, he believes there needs to be better services in place to help farmers get through the mental anguish of dealing with the disease.
He believed these could be provided by the Government.
‘‘There’s just a feeling that you’re publicly looked after through the system.
It’s one of those situations that’s soul destroying, he said.
Husband’s involvement with Waikato Federated Farmers as well as his election onto the Waikato Regional Council as part of the Rates Control Team became a way of coping with the aftermath of the disease.
‘‘I poured myself into it and it’s really helped,’’ he said. He loves being on the council. It was turning its focus to communities, to hear a wide range of issues and it allowed him to make a difference in helping people.
He planned to stand again at the next council elections.
He feels the experience has made him a stronger person.
‘‘There were some valuable lessons learned and you learn who your real friends are and I tell you what, it’s surprising.’’
He believed it changed him as a person.
‘‘Am I the happy go lucky guy I was a year-and-a-half ago. Nah he’s gone.’’