22 May 2018

Northland farmers: M bovis spread is inevitable

6:20 pm on 22 May 2018

Tensions are rising from Northland farmers as there is a sense of inevitability that farms in the region will test positive to Mycoplasma bovis at some stage.

Moo

Moo Photo: Supplied

Northland Federated Farmers president John Blackwell said now the disease had been confirmed in Waikato there was a feeling it was heading north.

There has been 39 farms nationwide infected with the disease and that number could rise to 70 as a further 1700 were deemed to be at risk, including two in Northland under a Notice of Direction. As many as 22,000 cattle have so far faced the culling block.

The disease causes mastitis, pneumonia, abortions and lameness and can result in the deaths of cows and calves, but it does not infect humans and presents no food safety risk.

"It takes weeks to get a back to confirm or deny whether you've got the disease and often the diesase will not be triggered with the test because it becomes dormant and unless the animal is under the stress it doesn't really show up ... it's a really difficult disease to test for," he said.

Mr Blackwell said he believed eradicating the disease was now unlikely.

The Prime Minister spent the morning at a meeting with farming industry leaders over the issue.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaking to farmers in Waikato.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaking to farmers in Waikato yesterday. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

The government is working closely with industry to make a decision on where to go from here - to either eradicate, or control it.

And Jacinda Ardern made it clear the industry would play a vital role.

"We have a common focus here. We want to make sure that we've got a resilient industry, put in the best position possible, but that is going to require us to give certainty about a plan going forward," she said.

That decision would hopefully be made by next week, she said. "Ultimately we're going to have to work on this one together."

Less politicking

National Party's agriculture spokesperson Nathan Guy was supportive of the government's approach.

"Good on the prime minister for getting on the ground and meeting farmers yesterday in the Waikato, I thought that was very good.

"It does show that the government is taking it seriously, as I've had some concerns that they've been acting a little bit slowly," he said.

National's leader Simon Bridges said the issue had been raised in at least half of the public meetings he had held during his trips to the regions in recent weeks.

He said farmers had made it clear to him - and to his colleagues - that they wanted constructive action, and less politicking.

"The reality is sometimes really bad things like this do happen, and it's about how you deal with it afterwards," he said.

"Whether it's National or Labour, what's important now is we don't politick on it, we don't have a blame game, we get in and we try and solve it - and National wants to help do that."

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