1 Jun 2018

'This is people’s livelihood': M bovis on Gypsy Day

7:59 am on 1 June 2018

Today is Gypsy Day, the first day of winter and the date dairy farmers from Kaitaia to Bluff move thousands of cows to new pastures for winter grazing.

Sharemilkers Daniel and Paula McAtamney.

Sharemilkers Daniel and Paula McAtamney. Photo: RNZ/Conan Young.

But farmers are also worried about their herds catching Mycoplasma bovis while mixing with infected cattle or trucks while on the move.

Daniel and Paula McAtamney are in their fourth year of dairy farming in mid-Canterbury and needed to work out how to move cows while keeping them safe from the disease.

"In terms of trucks, making sure the trucks are clean when they come on site," Mr McAtamney said.

Part of managing the risk was knowing where at risk or infected properties were.

"There's a lot of uncertainty there because we're only limited to a certain amount of information from MPI due to the privacy of everyone's businesses.

"You've got to ask the questions of the farm owners if you're buying stock or if you're moving to somewhere or taking graziers on."

A stock truck used to transport cattle.

A stock truck used to transport cattle. Photo: RNZ/Conan Young.

Another way of reducing risk was walking routes the cows would take, Mr McAtamney said.

"Making sure other farmers haven't got stock that are going to run over and touch noses over the fence."

Most farmers should be double fencing boundaries to eliminate that problem, he said.

"But in terms of the Mycoplasma [infected farms] - those cows shouldn't be being shifted without permits ... but you can never be too cautious when there's such a lot at stake."

The McAtamney's cows are spread across Canterbury and even the North Island which means months of planning so they can be moved, in some cases from one end of the country to the other. All within just a few days.

Mr McAtamney was fully aware of the consequences if they ended up with an infected herd.

"This is people's livelihood, all their savings can be in those cows."

Daniel and Paula McAtamney agreed there was a good chance of eradicating the cattle disease if farmers worked together and were up front about whether stock were infected.

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