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.

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

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.’’

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