Cattle slaughter the right thing to do, Waimate mayor says
The proposed cull of 4000 cattle as a result of the Mycoplasma bovis disease is the right thing to do at the end of an incursion that came at considerable cost to farmers and other taxpayers, Waimate mayor Craig Rowley says.
The Ministry of Primary Industries has confirmed it has spent $3.2m so far in response to the outbreak first identified at a van Leeuwen Dairy Group farm in South Canterbury in July.
The ministry on Thursday okayed the cull of cattle worth near $8 million in a bid to prevent the disease from spreading further than the seven properties already identified as being affected.
Just when the cull would start had yet to be determined by Friday: the ministry would consult with affected parties before a date was set.
Testing for the disease continued and was expected to be completed in November.
On Friday, Rowley said it was with a sense of relief he and others in the beef and dairy-enriched region received news of the cull.
As it stood, five properties in the Van Leeuwen dairy group in South Canterbury and North Otago were affected. A cull would help reassure those concerned about the disease's spread.
"I think it's great that MPI have gone down the line of eradication rather than managing the disease."
However, there would be a considerable cost, he said.
"It will be an expensive exercise for farmers and MPI."
Rowley said it would be a stressful time for the Van Leeuwen family and associated staff.
"I am aware they will be distraught and that the cows are not just numbers to them.
"Most of the farmers know them as animals by name and number and it will have a significant impact on them," Rowley said.
"I think it is good that they have decided to cull the affected herds"
Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen could not be contacted on Friday. Earlier, Aad Van Leeuwen told Radio New Zealand he supported the ministry's decision.
He wanted to cull the animals as soon as he knew they were infected, he said.
Rural Support Trust chairman David Hewson said stress was the recurrent issue plaguing the farmers involved.
"It is not an easy times for these guys, extra demands placed on them for testing, following regulations and the cleaning of everything."
It was tough for some of the farmers that owned their own stock and that had to see them taken away.
He said farmers could prepare themselves for the future now MPI had made the call to cull the cattle.
There were rumours of a reluctance from outside the district to buy calves reared in South Canterbury, he said.
However, Carrfields Livestock general manager Donald Baines said there had been no noticeable impact on demand for livestock from the region since the disease was confirmed.
A large number of Friesian bull calves were bought by North Island farmers each spring. This year, some buyers sought more information about the disease but "to date we have seen no cancellation of orders or indications that this season will be any different from previous years".
Buyers appeared satisfied with the containment and there was "minimal disruption to livestock trading patterns within the wider industry".
A ministry official confirmed the testing and containment regime cost the ministry $3.2 million by the end of last month. That excluded staff time.
More than 30,000 of 39,000 planned tests had been completed by the ministry's Animal Health Laboratory at Wallaceville, she said.
"No adjacent properties have, as yet, been identified as infected. We anticipate these tests will be completed towards the end of November."
District-wide surveillance in Waimate and Waitaki has been part of a multi-layered approach. Bulk and discard milks were collected from about 260 farms in the area and tested.
"All these results are now back and no further infection outside the Van Leeuwen Group has been found on farms in this area."
MPI continued to look at four possible vectors: live animals, imported semen, embryos, and on contaminated equipment.
"Despite intensive tracing and investigation there was no clear lead on how the cattle disease got into New Zealand."
"We are tracing movements of possible risk goods onto the affected properties as part of this investigation. We are dealing with a lot of uncertainty and it is possible that despite our best efforts, we may never know the exact source or route of entry, she said.