News the Ministry for Primary Industries will be notifying farmers if their neighbours have Mycoplasma bovis was met with a favourable response
at the standing-room-only meeting in Gore on Friday.
Ministry response director Geoff Gwyn said the ministry had come in for criticism from farmers because it had been unable to list affected farms, but it was hampered by the Biosecurity Act and the Privacy Act, but the initiative should provide more clarity to dairy and beef farmers.
Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker, who attended the meeting, said the privacy laws had caused a fair amount of uncertainty and gossip in the rural community, and he had been working with Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor to change the rules to ensure certainty is given to the rural community.
O’Connor said “this is a measured step that balances the privacy concerns of individuals with the need for farmers to protect their own farms”.
The ministry will also publish a list of the NAIT numbers of all affected animals on its website. This includes all animals associated with or traced from an infected property.
Twelve infringements have been issued for non-compliance with the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme and more are likely as investigations into the cattle disease continues.
Gwyn said at the public meeting, hosted by the ministry, Beef & Lamb NZ, Dairy NZ and the Rural Support Trust and attended by more than 100 people, that fines of up to $150 for each non-complying animal could be issued.
He could not say where in the country the infringements had been issued.
Ministry staff would be checking stock trucks stopped at weigh stations throughout the country to check for NAIT compliance, he said.
Cattle and deer are traced using NAIT-approved radio frequency identification device ear tags, which provide traceability for individual animals.
At the Winton bovis meeting, about 150 people turned up, and while it was quite a muted gathering, farmers wanted to know how the eradication would be carried out and what certainty of success it would have.
Overall, there was still confusion about the testing methods to be used following the eradication.
One farmer in the audience asked how the next round of national bulk milk testing would be carried out in spring.
Emil Murphy, of Biosecurity NZ, said the ministry was yet to determine the process and how many rounds of bulk milk testing there would be.
Another member of the audience replied, saying that spring was only a few months aways.
There could be three rounds of bulk milk testing, Murphy said, but he added that he would not commit to that answer.
One farmer asked if the ministry was able to determine where the strain of the disease came from since it was able to identify that it was not from Australia.
Gwyn said the ministry believed the strain came from either Europe or North America, but it did not have a definite answer because there was not an extensive library of samples to work from compared to a disease like foot and mouth.
Farmers who have not complied with NAIT commitments have hindered the tracking of M bovis.
The ministry came in for some flak at the Winton meeting over the testing of the disease, which causes illness in cows but was no danger to humans.
Murphy said testing for the disease gave a level of false positives, which meant re-testing was necessary.
“There is nothing we can do that can give 100 per cent certainty. To anyone buying stock, we would say knowing the history and the reputation of the farmer you’re buying off is as important as knowing the pedigree of the bull.”
Gwyn said the ministry was investing $30 million in the next two years and some of that work would be around developing a more reliable test for M bovis, and eventually one that was commercially available, but he urged farmers to come forward with information if they had it to help the eradication of the disease, rather than waiting on the ministry to catch up with them.
Twenty-seven thousand cattle had been culled in the Government’s plan to eradicate the disease.
Farmers who spent more on replacement stock in an inflated market would be able to apply for compensation for the change in price, Gwyn said.
“We will replace Minis with Minis though. We’re not replacing Minis with Ferraris.”
Walker said communication was key for the farming community to fight M bovis and he thanked the industry professionals for hosting the meeting.
“In the past, at times, the lack of communication from MPI and key stakeholders has caused problems and a level of uncertainty in the rural community. It’s great to see they are actively engaging with the community.”