25 May 2018

Solution for M bovis goes down to wire, expected to cost $1b

11:13 am on 25 May 2018

Wrangling over what to do about the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis is going down to the wire but whatever the solution, it is expected to cost about $1 billion.

FOR WATER TAX story - Generic cow

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ will discuss the issue with government ministers today. This last-chance meeting will form the basis of a paper going to Cabinet on Monday.

Federated Farmers President Katie Milne said all three groups were nearing consensus as to what do about the disease: Contain or eradicate it.

"We are on the same page in that we want to have as much information in front of us so we are confident that the decision we are making is the right one for all farmers.

"There is a lot of information there but we would like some more information. And we are getting to the point where we are able to come to a conclusion."

Minister of agriculture and biosecurity Damien O'Connor earlier this week said that he wanted a final word from the industry today, however the industry was not yet there.

The government would decide what to do about the disease by Monday's Cabinet meeting.

Speculation was that eradication would be selected ahead of management as the cost would be the same - about $1 billion - but Ms Milne said the decision was not straight forward.

"It's a big call to make as whichever way we go because we are weighing up the human factors of the pain and suffering we are going through right now, against having a chance to get rid of [the disease].

However, this morning she told Morning Report that keeping eradication on the table would be a good thing.

But she said that it would depend on how that would look.

"Culling the cows ... the way we are is causing so much pain and everything to everyone that that side of it doesn't sit well with farmers themselves," Ms Milne said.

She said the big question is, if you go to manage it how bad will that be later on for everyone?

"Does it spread right throughout the country and everyone is affected... So if there is a possibilty to get rid of it, eradacation should stay on the table, but they key is how you go about it."

"It is a difficult choice but we are going through all the information we have so we have confidence we have made the right choice, whichever way we go in the end," she said.

Mycoplasma bovis has so far been found on 39 farms. A further 67 have controls on movement of stock and almost 1700 are under surveillance. The disease can cause abortions, mastitis and lameness in cows.

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