Sharemilkers affected by cattle disease eligible for compensation

Sharemilkers should be completely covered for any losses related to Mycoplasma.

Sharemilkers should be completely covered for any losses related to Mycoplasma.

All the sharemilkers and contract milkers who work on Van Leeuwen farms affected by the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis will be compensated for loss of earnings.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said they will be covered for any loss of milk collection and replacement of their herds if their livestock have to be killed. 

Last week MPI announced the slaughter of 4000 cattle from five farms affected by the disease, on which it has already spent $3.2 million in efforts to stop its spread.

Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen inside their Makikihi cow barn just after it had been built.

Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen inside their Makikihi cow barn just after it had been built.

An MPI spokeswoman said the ministry had clear guidelines over compensation. Farmers had to have:

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* Property damaged or destroyed; 

The Van Leeuwens sponsor the Waimate 50 motor event being held this week.

The Van Leeuwens sponsor the Waimate 50 motor event being held this week.

* Restrictions which had been imposed on the movement or disposal of goods, which have caused a loss. The restrictions might be through a Restricted Place Notice, a Notice of Direction, or a Controlled Area Notice.

The losses had to be be verifiable. 

People were not covered if the loss was caused by an unwanted pest or disease and not the exercise of MPI powers, if it occurred before the exercise of powers started, if a claimant failed to comply with biosecurity law.

Meanwhile, rich listers Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen will be relieving the stress this week by focusing on the annual Waimate 50 motorsport event.

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The Van Leeuwen Group which they own is a sponsor of the event.

Keen motorcyclists, the couple have recently returned from a 7-week overseas trip and have not answered calls from the media. 

Mycoplasma is highly contagious within herds but unlike more serious threats such as foot and mouth, it is not spread by the wind.

Until it struck five of 16 Van Leeuwen properties in South Canterbury and North Otago, Mycoplasma had never been detected in New Zealand although it occurs in every other major dairying country.

It 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.

Already 150 of the Van Leeuwen's cattle have been killed on animal welfare grounds, as well as a small number on two other properties.

Mystery still surrounds how the disease arrived in the country. An MPI spokeswoman said a number of potential pathways  were being investigated.

"These include live animals, semen, embryos, veterinary medicines and equipment. We're throwing everything we've got at it to try and figure out where it came from."

The slaughter would start in "a couple of weeks". She said people need not be concerned about the process because all precautions would be taken.

MPI would not confirm how many sharemilkers - some of whom are immigrants - were affected or release any details about them, citing privacy.

"There are some workers on these farms whose immigration status is tied to their work. We are getting a cross-government welfare group and the Rural Support Trust looking after them."

 As soon as it was discovered that a worker might be impacted, his or her name was forwarded to Work and Income so the stand-down clock before they could receive a benefit started ticking.

 - Stuff

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