South Canterbury rural consultant Sarah Barr says there is a huge degree of anxiety on the ground over the surge in the Mycoplasma bovis eradication effort.
MPI last week prepared a Cabinet paper on options for the Government in light of more herds having been found carrying the disease. The Treasury is also understood to have contributed to the paper, given the cost implications and benefits of the respective options.
Farming leaders, the Prime Minister, Minister of Agriculture and government officials were updated earlier in the week on the disease and gave their views on how best to combat it. Their views were likely to have been contained in the Cabinet paper.
Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says everyone understands that farmers need certainty, hence the commitment to making a decision.
“The meeting was constructive with all participants, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, updated on the known extent of the disease, the effects it’s having and the costs, both social and economic, of dealing with it.”
Organisations represented at the meeting were DairyNZ, B+LNZ, Federated Farmers, Rural Women New Zealand, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association.
The two key options before the Cabinet were either ‘phased eradication’ of the disease over time, or ‘long term management’. Phased eradication would mean placing diseased herds in lockdown for slaughter over possibly a year. This is what is now happening.
The alternative is to try to slow the spread of the disease. 38 herds are known to be infected and 40 more are on restricted notice, meaning they are highly likely to be infected. NZ has 11,918 dairy cow herds.
O’Connor says farmer, rural community and animal welfare is at the heart of the decision.
DairyNZ Chairman Jim van der Poel described the past 10 months as challenging for farmers living with a great deal of uncertainty. He says the meeting with the Prime Minister and others was very helpful with a lot of useful information shared and constructive discussion.
Federated Farmers President Katie Milne says while Mycoplasma bovis is challenging, the degree of cooperation between farmers and the Government is positive.