Farmers advised to prepare for long-term management of bovine disease
Farmers have been warned to prepare for possible long-term management of Mycoplasma bovis, as the Ministry for Primary Industries works on a plan to eradicate the disease.
Ministry representatives met with about 100 South Canterbury and North Otago farmers at Waimate's Shears Pavilion on Thursday evening where they told farmers of the current situation with testing of affected farms, how to prevent possible spread and urged them to prepare for the possibility of dealing with the disease long-term.
"I want to make it quite clear, we do not know the answer. Let's get past blaming people and work together," MPI deadliness and response director Geoff Gwynn said at the meeting.
If, after testing, the disease was found outside of South Canterbury - and eradication was not an option - MPI would look at long-term management of the disease, Gwynn said.
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The possible extent of Mycoplasma bovis and where it has come from is not yet known as testing of affected farms continued, he said.
The disease causes untreatable mastitis in dairy and beef cows, pneumonia in up to 30 per cent of infected calves, ear infections in calves, abortions and swollen joints and lameness.
Representatives from MPI, Dairy NZ, Beef and Lamb New Zealand, Federated Farmers North Otago, South Canterbury Rural Support Trust and Waimate mayor Craig Rowley were present at the meeting.
MPI Incident Controller Eve Pleydell said no further farms, beyond the two farms in the Van Leeuwen Dairy Group (VLDG), had been confirmed as being infected.
Properties surrounding the VLDG had been tested once and had returned negative results, but at least two more tests were required to make sure.
Neighbouring farms were subject to "tight controls" and could not transport stock unless given the express permission of MPI.
MPI was conducting sampling and tests at the VLDG and surrounding farms as well as samples from across the country. The VLDG 16 properties would have 6284 tests, the 62 surrounding farmers would have 16,884 tests.
"Over the next three months we will have over 30,000 samples to test."
New Zealand Food Safety Authority veterinary technical supervisor Victoria Barrell said all farmers should have a biosecurity plan in place.
VLDG and surrounding farms were on restricted plan notice which meant they were in "quarantine lockdown".
Stock was prohibited to move unless authorised.
Barrell said there was no evidence that sperm or embryo importing had been the transporter of the disease in response to a question from the audience.
"It is legally prohibited to move with out permission and this will stay in place until we know the scale of this thing. Any incidents of non-compliance will be followed up. It is there to protect you."
Federated Farmers North Otago dairy chairperson Lyndon Strang advised the farmers that Federated Farmers "had their back".
"We are putting in resources to make sure the farms of this area are supported."
Strang admitted it took time for resources to set up after the first confirmation of the disease but assured the crowd it had ramped up.
"In the first week we probably took 10 samples now we have 1000s of samples waiting to be tested."
He encouraged farmers to be as cooperative as possible with MPI staff if they requested to take samples or come onto a farm.
One man asked representatives if the disease had been detected in Mid Canterbury, Pleydell confirmed at this point the only places it was detected was in the VLDG.
Disinfectant signs were available at the meeting as well as guides on how to make the disinfectants, checklists for purchasing live stock and how farmers could best protect their farms.