The New Zealand government and dairy and beef producers across the country have determined they have no other choice in eradicating Mycoplasma bovis from their herds — 150,000 cows will need to be culled.
On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor made the announcement saying the country only has one shot at eradicating the disease that causes painful, untreatable illness in cattle.
The decision was taken collectively by the government and farming sector bodies after months of intense modelling and analysis to understand the likely impacts of Mycoplasma bovis, the potential spread, and the costs and benefits of eradication versus other actions.
“Today’s decision to eradicate is driven by the Government’s desire to protect the national herd from the disease and protect the base of our economy – the farming sector,” Ardern said.“We’ve worked hard to get the information to make this call and I know the past 10 months have been hugely uncertain for our beef and dairy farmers.”
Ardern also said allowing the disease to spread would only add more anxiety to the situation.
“This is a tough call – no-one ever wants to see mass culls. But the alternative is to risk the spread of the disease across our national herd. We have a real chance of eradication to protect our more than 20,000 dairy and beef farms, but only if we act now,” Ardern said.
Currently Mycoplasmis bovis is still not widespread (37 infected farms and some 260 suspect farms out of 20,000). Only one strain of the disease is present.
All cattle on infected farms and future infected farms, plus some high-risk farms under movement controls, will need to be culled. This means about 126,000 cattle from about 190 farms will need to be culled – most in one to two years. This is in addition to the current cull underway. The timing of any cull will be worked through with individual farmers to minimize impacts on production.