The Ministry for Primary Industry says it is flexible about the timing of when Mycoplasma bovis-infected herds are culled, as long as farmers adhere to strict biosecurity controls.
In a phased eradication costing $886 million, the Government will cull about 126,000 cattle on top of the 26,000 already being destroyed in an attempt to rid the country of the disease, which can cause mastitis and lameness in stressed cows. The disease is harmless to humans. Most of the cull will occur in the next one to two years.
At a primary production select committee MPI officials were asked about the timing of culling herds and how flexible they were prepared to be.
Biosecurity NZ head Roger Smith said the M. bovis cull was a phased eradication. “MPI’s priority is that biosecurity controls are maintained while being mindful that farmers have different requirements.
“They may be winter milking and want to milk through. As long as farmers meet their permit requirements then we will enable them to do that.
“Farmers can keep farming, which reduces compensation costs, as the farmer is producing an income.
“It is a balance between giving farmers a choice to farm through, while we provide strict biosecurity control,” said Smith.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said eradication would only be successful “if we trust farmers to do the right thing”.
“If farmers think they can cut corners then that will undermine the integrity of the eradication programme.
“If we give farmers a chance like this, then they have to be responsible.”
About 50 new MPI case managers have been appointed or were being trained to work one-on-one with affected farmers under movement controls. They will support farmers with information and advice on the practical aspects of the controls.
Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis said every farm was different in the way it runs its business “so there needs to be flexibility”.
“Heavily pregnant cows can’t be transported according to animal welfare codes.
“While everybody wants the cows gone quickly, in practical terms this doesn’t always suit. The end goal is the same. It is a matter of working with the farmer.” Infected farms needed to adhere to rules around no stock movements and hygiene requirements while the property remained stocked, said Lewis.