Re­sponse cost will pass $3m

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE - RYAN DUN­LOP AND AL WIL­LIAMS

The pro­posed cull of 4000 cat­tle as a re­sult of the My­coplasma bo­vis dis­ease is the right thing to do at the end of an in­cur­sion that came at con­sid­er­able cost to farm­ers and other tax­pay­ers, Wai­mate mayor Craig Row­ley says.

The Min­istry of Pri­mary In­dus­tries has con­firmed it has spent at least $3.2m in re­sponse to the out­break first iden­ti­fied at a van Leeuwen Dairy Group farm in South Can­ter­bury in July.

The min­istry on Thurs­day okayed the cull of cat­tle worth near $8 mil­lion in a bid to pre­vent the dis­ease from spread­ing fur­ther than the seven prop­er­ties al­ready iden­ti­fied as be­ing af­fected.

Just when the cull would start had yet to be de­ter­mined by Fri­day: the min­istry would con­sult with af­fected par­ties be­fore a date was set.

Test­ing for the dis­ease con­tin­ued and was ex­pected to be com­pleted in Novem­ber.

On Fri­day, Row­ley said it was with a sense of re­lief he and oth­ers in the beef and dairy-en­riched re­gion re­ceived news of the cull.

As it stood, five prop­er­ties in the Van Leeuwen dairy group in South Can­ter­bury and North Otago were af­fected.

A cull would help re­as­sure those con­cerned about the dis­ease’s spread.

‘‘I think it’s great that MPI have gone down the line of erad­i­ca­tion rather than man­ag­ing the dis­ease.’’

How­ever, there would be a con­sid­er­able cost, he said.

‘‘It will be an ex­pen­sive ex­er­cise for farm­ers and MPI.’’

Row­ley said it would be a stress­ful time for the Van Leeuwen fam­ily and as­so­ci­ated staff.

‘‘I am aware they will be dis­traught and that the cows are not just num­bers to them.

‘‘Most of the farm­ers know them as an­i­mals by name and num­ber and it will have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on them,’’ Row­ley said.

‘‘I think it is good that they have de­cided to cull the af­fected herds’’

Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen could not be con­tacted on Fri­day. Ear­lier, Aad Van Leeuwen told Ra­dio New Zealand he sup­ported the min­istry’s de­ci­sion.

He wanted to cull the an­i­mals as soon as he knew they were in­fected, he said.

Ru­ral Sup­port Trust chair­man David Hew­son said stress was the re­cur­rent is­sue plagu­ing the farm­ers in­volved.

‘‘It is not an easy times for th­ese guys, ex­tra de­mands placed on them for test­ing, fol­low­ing reg­u­la­tions and the clean­ing of ev­ery­thing.’’

It was tough for some of the farm­ers that owned their own stock and that had to see them taken away.

He said farm­ers could pre­pare them­selves for the fu­ture now MPI had made the call to cull the cat­tle.

There were ru­mours of a re­luc­tance from out­side the district to buy calves reared in South Can­ter­bury, he said.

How­ever, Car­rfields Live­stock gen­eral man­ager Don­ald Baines said there had been no no­tice­able im­pact on de­mand for live­stock from the re­gion since the dis­ease was con­firmed.

A large num­ber of Friesian bull calves were bought by North Is­land farm­ers each spring. This year, some buy­ers sought more in­for­ma­tion about the dis­ease but ‘‘to date we have seen no can­cel­la­tion of or­ders or in­di­ca­tions that this sea­son will be any dif­fer­ent from pre­vi­ous years’’.

Buy­ers ap­peared sat­is­fied with the con­tain­ment and there was ‘‘min­i­mal dis­rup­tion to live­stock trad­ing pat­terns within the wider in­dus­try’’.

A min­istry of­fi­cial con­firmed the test­ing and con­tain­ment regime cost the min­istry $3.2 mil­lion by the end of last month. That ex­cluded staff time.

More than 30,000 of 39,000 planned tests had been com­pleted by the min­istry’s An­i­mal Health Lab­o­ra­tory at Wal­laceville, she said.

‘‘No ad­ja­cent prop­er­ties have, as yet, been iden­ti­fied as in­fected. We an­tic­i­pate th­ese tests will be com­pleted to­wards the end of Novem­ber.’’

District-wide sur­veil­lance in Wai­mate and Waitaki has been part of a multi-lay­ered ap­proach. Bulk and dis­card milks were col­lected from about 260 farms in the area and tested.

‘‘All th­ese re­sults are now back and no fur­ther in­fec­tion out­side the Van Leeuwen Group has been found on farms in this area.’’

MPI con­tin­ued to look at four pos­si­ble vec­tors: live an­i­mals, im­ported se­men, em­bryos, and on con­tam­i­nated equip­ment.

De­spite in­ten­sive trac­ing and in­ves­ti­ga­tion there was no clear lead on how the cat­tle dis­ease got into New Zealand.

‘‘We are deal­ing with a lot of un­cer­tainty and it is pos­si­ble that de­spite our best ef­forts, we may never know the ex­act source or route of en­try.’’

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