Farmer honoured for battling Tb

GAME ON: Award-winning bovine tuberculosis fighter Kevin Gilmour on his deer farm near the Hokonui Hills, where the war against Tb continues but the target has changed.
GAME ON: Award-winning bovine tuberculosis fighter Kevin Gilmour on his deer farm near the Hokonui Hills, where the war against Tb continues but the target has changed.

A retired Southland deer farmer has won an award for leading the fight against bovine tuberculosis, but the war continues as Southland gets earmarked as a top priority for containing the spread of the disease.

TBfree Southland committee member Kevin Gilmour, 63, was presented with the Matuschka award last week for his 20 years' work on the committee in Southland.

He joined the committee when his deer herd in Hokonui got bovine Tb repeatedly from infected possums.

"Bovine Tb was not only causing financial hardship on our farm but the disease was also affecting other Southland deer and cattle herd owners. Something had to be done to bring it under control."

He retired from the Hokonui deer farm two weeks ago, and the committee, but the battle against Tb around Hokonui Hills continues, he said.

As the infection rate of stock had lowered in Southland, a new strategy was being adopted of reducing infected herds by eradicating wild animals with Tb, he said.

The Hokonui Hills are the only area in the South Island made a priority in a government strategy to eradicate wild animals infected with Tb.

"The Hokonui Hills are an island of bush surrounded by productive land, so once you get it out of there it will be very difficult for it to come back," Mr Gilmour said.

TBfree Southland committee chairman Mike O'Brien said that when Mr Gilmour joined the committee 20 years ago there were 56 infected cattle and deer herds in Southland, but now there were two infected dairy herds in Southland.

The new strategy would have the Hokonui Hills TB-free by 2026 and would focus on all wild animals carrying Tb, such as ferrets, stoats, pigs and possums.

Most possums would be trapped, some would be poisoned, and 1080 could be used in the future, he said.

Mr Gilmour said dairy cows were the herds at greatest risk of Tb infection because their greater movement, such as for winter feeding, made them more susceptible.

In retirement Mr Gilmour and his wife Norma are buying a caravan in Australia to tour for six months each year, he said.

"Until I'm sick of it, or the money runs out.

"I never had teenage years when I was young so I'll try to relive that now."

The Southland Times