Govt decision on M. bovis cattle disease

One of the big challenges with Mycoplasma bovis is the ability to test for it. Often the disease can hide in the animal

New Zealand will kill over 1,50,000 cows to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis infection caused by the bovine. Politicians and industry leaders announced the ambitious plan Monday, May 28, 2018.

Mycoplasma bovis has not been eradicated from any country where it has been found.

"The decision to eradicate the disease is driven by the government's desire to protect national livestock from the disease and protect the basis of the economy, the livestock sector", said Jacinda Ardern.

Cabinet's decision to opt for eradication of Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand is a bold one and probably the right one, but will involve a lot of anguish and pain for farmers and must be closely scrutinised right through the programme. Found in Europe and the US, the bacteria can cause cows to develop mastitis, pneumonia, arthritis and other diseases.

Although many cows are expected to be killed at processing plants and be used for beef, some may have to be killed and buried on farms or in specified landfills, AP reported.

Officials have the legal authority to forcibly enter farms and kill animals even in cases where a farmer might resist, but they said they hope they don't have to use those powers.

In Ashburton, some farmers are anxious that eradicating Mycoplasma bovis will disproportionately hurt their herds through culling. "We will work with MPI and industry groups to make sure the system to support farmers is robust and delivers well into the future", Katie says.

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"This is a tough time, and the pain and anguish [affected farmers] are going to go through is really ugly", she said. "And we have to support them as neighbors, community members, farmers, friends".

Since it was first discovered, 26,000 cows have been culled, and the disease is classified as "active" on 37 properties. That's more than two cows per person in the country. The cost of killing the cows is estimated at 886 million New Zealand dollars. The government plans to pick up about two-thirds of the tab while farmers and the cattle industry will pay the rest.

The government has said that it is taking the step to eradicate the danger of the infection spreading to farms of New Zealand.

The fight against Mycoplasma bovis is escalating with 50 more staff, a new field headquarters and the appointment of a science adviser, says Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor.

"We all agree that while there remains a chance to get rid of this disease, we should take it", he said.

It is unclear whether she made any mention of the 150,000 cows set to die as part of the eradication attempt.