M.bo­vis-in­fected farmer outs him­self

Piako Post - - FRONT PAGE - GERALD PIDDOCK

Henk Smit has come for­ward as the Waikato dairy farmer whose herd has tested pos­i­tive for My­coplasma bo­vis.

Smit walked up to the stage and put his hand up dur­ing a meet­ing at­tended by close to 600 farm­ers at the Sir Don Row­lands Cen­tre near Cam­bridge.

He out­lined how the cat­tle dis­ease ar­rived on his farm and his frus­tra­tions with deal­ing with the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries.

Smit has farm­ing in­ter­ests in three prop­er­ties around Waikato in­clud­ing the dairy farm that tested pos­i­tive for Mbo­vis.

When asked af­ter­wards why he spoke up, the Dutch-born farmer said: ‘‘There’s been so much ru­mours go­ing around. I thought I would face [them].’’

The dis­ease spread to his herd af­ter he bought 240 au­tumn calv­ing cows in mid-2016 from South­land farmer Al­fons Zeestraten. MPI con­firmed this month that Zeestraten’s farm had the ear­li­est known Mbo­vis in­fec­tion.

The cat­tle were then trans­ported and dis­trib­uted to his farms a fort­night later.

‘‘In De­cem­ber 2017 I got a phone call from Al­fons Zeestraten that he’s been di­ag­nosed with [M] bo­vis and I thought, I should get a call [from the MPI] within the next few days.’’

The MPI call ar­rived six weeks later that he might have the dis­ease.

Tests cleared the herd on his Maun­gatau­tari farm and ini­tially a Roto-o-Rangi prop­erty was also neg­a­tive.

‘‘The farm I am­in­volved with in Roto-o-Rangi is in same boat - noth­ing on the swabs, the blood tests were that some an­i­mals were pos­i­tive - and then three weeks ago, all of a sud­den there was a pos­i­tive bo­vis test on the bulk milk.’’

Smit leases the farm and was part owner of the herd along with two oth­ers.

Fur­ther test­ing the fol­low­ing week was mixed, but since then, all tests for that farm had come back pos­i­tive.

Smit said the 330-cow herd at the Roto-o-Rangi farm was ‘‘su­per healthy’’, pro­duc­ing high vol­umes of milk at a vet­eri­nar­ian cost of $46 a cow.

‘‘As far as I am­con­cerned [there is] noth­ing to see.’’

Smit said the pos­i­tive test was an ini­tial shock for the farmer who ran the farm, but he was cop­ing well. His other two farms re­main un­der re­stricted no­tice, which re­stricted the movement of cat­tle off his farm. MPI will con­tinue to test Smit’s cows and the milk leav­ing his farms.

Get­ting in­for­ma­tion out of the MPI had been hugely frus­trat­ing, he said.

‘‘The pa­per wall from the MPI is just a dis­as­ter.’’

He told farm­ers the rules were con­fus­ing for trans­port­ing cull cows from his farm to meat pro­ces­sors and his cat­tle were stuck on a trans­port truck for 14 hours in the sum­mer heat while the pa­per­work was sorted.

‘‘That was prob­a­bly the most up­set­ting ex­pe­ri­ence for me,’’ he said.

‘‘As you can prob­a­bly un­der­stand I’m fairly frus­trated with the MPI.

‘‘Where this is go­ing, I don’t know, I might have culled the pos­i­tive [M] bo­vis cows al­ready. I don’t know where this is go­ing to end and I think they will con­tinue with erad­i­ca­tion.

‘‘In my opin­ion they won’t get it un­der con­trol, it’s too far spread and they don’t know where ev­ery­thing is gone.’’

He re­ceived an ova­tion from the crowd with sev­eral thank­ing him for speak­ing out.

MPI of­fi­cials did not re­spond to Smit’s crit­i­cisms at the meet­ing. The meet­ing was or­gan­ised by in­dus­try groups and MPI to up­date farm­ers with the lat­est in­for­ma­tion on the spread of the dis­ease.

There was also a brief mo­ment of drama when an el­derly woman col­lapsed and had to be taken away in an am­bu­lance.

Ques­tions were taken from farm­ers seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion about how the dis­ease had spread, its im­pact and what they could do to pro­tect them­selves and their an­i­mals.

Cabi­net was to meet on Mon­day to de­cide whether to pur­sue with full scale erad­i­ca­tion or long term man­age­ment of the dis­ease. So far, the dis­ease is con­firmed on 37 prop­er­ties with 73 farms on a re­stricted place no­tice.

MPI head of Biose­cu­rity New Zealand Roger Smith said he knew com­mu­ni­ties were split over the two op­tions. Cabi­net would make its de­ci­sion based on all of the best sci­ence and ad­vice avail­able.

TOM LEE/STUFF

Henk Smit has told a packed out Sir Don Row­lands Cen­tre that his farm has My­coplasma bo­vis.

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