Call for farm­ers to be re­silient


Farm­ers fac­ing the threat of a dis­ease that can dec­i­mate cat­tle herds have been urged to show re­silience as of­fi­cials seek to pre­vent its spread.

New Zealand’s first cases of My­coplasma bo­vis have so far been iso­lated to two farms in the Van Leeuwan Dairy Group in South Can­ter­bury.

The Min­istry of Pri­mary In­dus­tries has re­stricted the move­ment of cat­tle un­til it prop­erly un­der­stands the scale of the out­break and as it con­tin­ues to test thou­sands of sam­ples.

South Can­ter­bury Ru­ral Sup­port Trust trustee Sarah Barr said the trust had been work­ing with sharemilk­ers and man­agers within the af­fected dairy group.

‘‘They are all ob­vi­ously con­cerned but they are re­signed to see this thing out. They all want to know when we will be clear,’’ she said.

The trust was li­ais­ing with the min­istry’s re­sponse cen­tre in Oa­maru, which was set up fol­low­ing the out­break last month.

‘‘We just have to play the wait­ing game at this point.’’

It was tough when peo­ple were feel­ing low, but they needed to both seek re­silience and not be afraid to ask for help when they needed it, she said.

‘‘We can con­nect them to the right peo­ple.’’

Well-or­gan­ised meet­ings hosted by the min­istry and other ru­ral or­gan­i­sa­tions at Pa­pakaio and Wai­mate early this month meant the trust was not be­ing in­un­dated with ques­tions.

There re­mained many un­knowns about the dis­ease be­cause it was dif­fer­ent ev­ery coun­try it was found in, she said.

Marl­bor­ough farmer Doug Avery, au­thor of the book The Re­silient Farmer, said re­silience was more im­por­tant than ever.

‘‘Take your share of what you need to do but don’t over­load your­self.

‘‘If you do feel over­whelmed, call a friend if you feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoul­ders.’’

Min­istry di­rec­tor of re­sponse Ge­off Gwynn said farm­ers most fre­quently asked what MPI was do­ing in re­sponse to the in­cur­sion.

Right now, the fo­cus was on scop­ing up ‘‘what we are ac­tu­ally deal­ing with’’ in or­der to make good de­ci­sions on how the sit­u­a­tion should be man­aged, Gwynn said.

‘‘Is it just in the Van Leeuwen group of farms? Is it in the re­gion? How did it get here and has it been here for some time and is present around the coun­try?’’

A pic­ture was be­ing built through a ‘‘ro­bust sur­veil­lance pro­gramme of sam­pling and test­ing’’.

The dis­ease did not spread fast by wind or wa­ter but it did spread through an­i­mal to an­i­mal con­tact and this may have oc­curred over fences, he said.

‘‘We’re work­ing with dairy com­pa­nies to look at the milk from an­i­mals in two dis­tricts around the VLDG – Waitaki and Wai­mate.

Test­ing was a huge job and the first pri­or­ity was thor­oughly check­ing the 16 Van Leeuwan prop­er­ties and trac­ing any move­ments of stock from those farms.

‘‘Farms that have re­ceived an­i­mals from the VLDG are be­ing con­tacted and an­i­mals tested. MPI is also sam­pling and test­ing an­i­mals on farms neigh­bour­ing the VLDG prop­er­ties.’’

An­i­mal Health Lab­o­ra­tory ex­pected to test more than 39,000 sam­ples dur­ing the sur­veil­lance pro­gramme.

‘‘So far we’ve re­ceived more than 6200 sam­ples (of milk, blood or swabs) and of th­ese al­most 2500 have been tested.

‘‘We are re­port­ing out re­sults in batches and ex­pect to re­port the sec­ond batch any time. We have adopted a new strat­egy of re­port­ing re­sults twice weekly.’’

Test­ing would de­ter­mine whether the bac­te­ria was present and if an an­i­mal has been ex­posed to the bac­te­ria and has an­ti­bod­ies present.

‘‘Be­cause a cow can be in­fected with­out show­ing symptoms, we have to test herds more than once over 3 – 4 months before we have def­i­nite re­sults for each farm.’’

That meant farm­ers would have to wait some time before MPI could con­firm that their herds are not in­fected.

Con­trol mea­sures were work­ing, Gwynn said.

‘‘We have no ev­i­dence to date that there has been any spread of My­coplasma bo­vis from the farms un­der Re­stricted Place No­tices.

‘‘All 16 VLDG farms are un­der strict le­gal con­trols which mean an­i­mals and risk goods can only be moved out of the farms un­der per­mit from MPI.’’

An­i­mals were only go­ing off the farms to slaugh­ter.

Au­thor, farmer and NZ or­der of merit mem­ber Doug Avery is ad­vis­ing farm­ers to show re­silience fol­low­ing the out­break of My­coplasma bo­vis in South Can­ter­bury.

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