‘Peace of mind’ in big cat­tle cull

The Southland Times - - NEWS - GER­ARD HUTCHING

About 4000 cat­tle worth up to $8 mil­lion will be slaugh­tered to halt the spread of the cat­tle dis­ease My­coplasma bo­vis.

The Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries said it hoped to min­imise the risk of the dis­ease spread­ing from the seven known farms where it has been de­tected.

Five prop­er­ties are owned by rich lis­ter cou­ple Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen, and are lo­cated in the South Can­ter­bury/North Otago re­gion. A small num­ber of cat­tle on the other two farms had al­ready been culled.

My­coplasma is com­mon glob­ally in cat­tle but was dis­cov­ered for the first time in New Zealand in July, prompt­ing thou­sands of tests and rais­ing ques­tions about how it came into the coun­try, which have not yet been an­swered.

MPI said af­fected farmers can apply for com­pen­sa­tion for ver­i­fi­able losses re­lat­ing to MPI ex­er­cis­ing le­gal pow­ers.

Some of the farmers are sharemilk­ers work­ing on Van Leeuwen farms, among them im­mi­grants. MPI said it did not know ex­actly how many were af­fected but they were be­ing looked after and able to ac­cess wel­fare ben­e­fits if needed.

The move was wel­comed by Fed­er­ated Farmers, DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb NZ.

Labour’s pri­mary in­dus- tries spokesman Damien O’Con­nor at­tacked the National Gov­ern­ment over its slow re­sponse.

‘‘It was in­evitable and ar­guably too late, but po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions over­ruled biose­cu­rity. The image of cows be­ing slaugh­tered just be­fore the elec­tion was some­thing National didn’t want to be seen,’’ O’Con­nor said.

Fed­er­ated Farmers pres­i­dent Katie Milne said the de­ci­sion to de­stroy the stock was the only op­tion which would en­sure peace of mind for the rest of New Zealand’s dairy and beef farmers.

‘‘We recog­nise the dis­ease has come at a sig­nif­i­cant emo­tional cost to the af­fected farm­ing fam­i­lies and their an­i­mals . . . culling whole herds will be very stress­ful for the peo­ple con­cerned.’’

MPI’s direc­tor of re­sponse Ge­off Gwyn said that since late July it had car­ried out tens of thou­sands of tests.

‘‘The only pos­i­tive re­sults for the dis­ease have been on seven in­fected prop­er­ties, lead­ing us to be cau­tiously op­ti­mistic that we are deal­ing with a very lo­calised area of in­fec­tion around Oamaru,’’ Gwyn said.

The slaugh­ter would be a ‘‘big lo­gis­ti­cal ex­er­cise’’. The farms would then be de­con­tam­i­nated and ‘‘re­pop­u­lated’’.

The pre­cise value of the cat­tle is dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine be­cause of the mix of dairy cows, bulls, heifers and calves.

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