Cat­tle cull to con­tain dis­ease

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE - 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 Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen, and are lo­cated in the South Can­ter­bury and North Otago.

A small num­ber of cat­tle on the other two farms, which in­cluded a lifestyle block in Ran­giora, 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.

The dis­ease causes un­treat­able mas­ti­tis in dairy and beef cows, pneu­mo­nia and ear in­fec­tions in calves, abor­tions, swollen joints and lame­ness.

MPI said af­fected farmers could apply for com­pen­sa­tion for ver­i­fi­able losses re­lat­ing to MPI ex­er­cis­ing le­gal pow­ers un­der the Biose­cu­rity Act.

The move to cull the cat­tle was wel­comed by Fed­er­ated Farmers, DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb NZ.

Labour Pri­mary In­dus­tries 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. The process of culling whole herds will be very stress­ful for the peo­ple con­cerned.’’

MPI’s direc­tor of re­sponse, Ge­off Gwyn said since late July it had car­ried out tens of thou­sands of tests of the in­fected, neigh­bour­ing and trace prop­er­ties as well as dis­trict-wide test­ing in Waimate and Waitaki, and na­tion­wide test­ing of bulk milk.

‘‘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 op­er­a­tion to slaugh­ter the 4000 cat­tle would not hap­pen im­me­di­ately and would be a ‘‘big lo­gis­ti­cal ex­er­cise’’. The farms would then be de-con­tam­i­nated and ’’re-pop­u­lated’’.

The pre­cise value of the cat­tle is dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine be­cause they are a mix­ture of dairy cows, bulls, heifers and calves.

Gwyn raised the pos­si­bil­ity that more cat­tle might have to be killed if fur­ther tests re­vealed more in­fec­tion on other Van Leeuwen farms.

‘‘Cur­rently there is no need to re­move an­i­mals from other farms in the Van Leeuwen group that are un­der re­stric­tions. Test­ing of an­i­mals on those farms con­tin­ues and should in­fec­tion be found, they will be sub­ject to the same mea­sures.’’

All premises, trans­porta­tion ve­hi­cles and equip­ment in­volved in culling would follow a strict de­con­tam­i­na­tion and dis­in­fec­tion pro­to­col to mit­i­gate the risk of spread­ing the dis­ease.

Once de-pop­u­la­tion is com­pleted, there will be at least a 60-day stand-down pe­riod where no cat­tle will be per­mit­ted on the farms. Dur­ing this time the in­fected prop­er­ties will be cleaned and dis­in­fected.

PHOTO: DOUG FIELD/STUFF

Waimate Shears Spring So­ci­ety pres­i­dent War­ren White round­ing up sheep ahead of the Waimate Shears event this week­end.

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