Word of the day

November 9, 2017

Ragrowtering – playing at romps, and thereby rumpling, roughening and tearing the clothes to rags; playing the rogue in a wanton frolic.


Biosecurity alerts

November 9, 2017

Plague skinks found near Picton:

Thanks to a sharp-eyed resident, a plague skink (also known as rainbow skink) was captured in Waikawa near Picton in early October. A second skink was subsequently caught at the same location during an investigation by Marlborough District Council, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation.

Marlborough District Council Biosecurity Coordinator Jono Underwood says plague skinks are native to Australia but have established and spread rapidly throughout the warmer parts of the North Island. They breed prolifically and are thought to out-compete native lizards for food and territory. . . 

AgPest warns of  another pest:

Readiness and responsiveness are key :

And happy retirement Yogi,  thanks for helping to keep out pests:

We’ve recently said farewell to long serving detector dog Yogi from active service at the border.
Yogi is a born and bred MPI detector dog.
He’s has had a diverse career within his role as a biosecurity detector dog. He worked all over the country during his almost 8 year career with MPI including Christchurch, Wellington, Tauranga and Auckland. . . 


Rural round-up

November 9, 2017

Kuriger ‘elated’ with biosecurity and rural communities roles – Christina Perisico:

Barbara Kuriger heads an electorate with no parking meters and one traffic light – but it gives her expertise for her new role in National’s opposition government.

The MP for Taranaki-King Country said she is elated with her new role as biosecurity and rural communities spokesperson.

Her whole electorate is made up of rural communities, she said. . . 

Butter – I can’t believe it’s not . . .cheaper – Joe Bennett:

 Have you seen the price of butter? We live in a land where dairy cows have multiplied like flies in summer, so as compensation for the ruined rivers you’d think we might at least get bargain butter. But no. The price of the stuff has doubled of late. It’s become a luxury.

One has to feel sorry for pensioners. Brought up to see butter as a staple, they can now barely afford it. It seems unfair. And it seems especially unfair when you know why the price has risen. But let’s begin at the beginning.

Butter is simple. At Hassocks County Primary School half a century ago Miss Turner handed out bottles of cream and told us to shake them till our arms ached. When we opened our bottles we found a blob of something pale and yellow. . . 

MPI considering Canterbury rabbit virus application – Alexa Cook:

Canterbury Regional Council has applied for a new strain of rabbit virus to be approved in New Zealand.

Farmers had been expecting the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Virus Disease strain known as K5 to be released earlier this year.

It would mean they would not have to rely on expensive poisons and control measures against rabbit pests.

But in March, Canterbury Regional Council said the introduction would be delayed by a year because it had to do more work to have the virus approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The ministry received the council’s application this week. It is open for consultation until 14 December. . . 

Blessed are the flexible because they shall not be bent out of shape:

Fluctuating milk prices over the past 10 years have led dairy farmers to revise operating structures and consider options outside traditional pathways.

DairyNZ economist Angie Fisher says roles in the dairy sector are more diverse than they once were which is helping farmers adapt to increasing volatility.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests there has been an increase in variations to the standard clauses in sharemilking agreements around the sharing of milk income. This is evidence of the market adapting to milk price volatility,” she says. . . 

Pre-schoolers pitch in for planting project:

Teaching the next generation about their natural environment is a big part of the philosophy of Kids Barn Childcare Centre in the Taranaki town of Hawera.

So when the opportunity to help local farmers, Adam and Josie Werder with a planting project came up the kids and staff at the preschool were delighted.

Kitted out with their gumboots, sunhats and a willingness to get their hands dirty, 25 four-year-olds from Kids Barn visited the farm to learn about, and help with, the planting of native flaxes. . . 

It’s time – new focus on safely managing hazardous substances:

On 1 December the Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017 will come into force. The aim is to reduce both the immediate harm to people and longer-term illness caused by hazardous substances in the workplace.

It’s no small matter. A hazardous substance is any product or chemical that has explosive, flammable, oxidising, toxic or corrosive properties – and they’re everywhere. Around one in three New Zealand workplaces use, manufacture, handle or store them. This includes factories, farmers and growers, as well as printers, collision repairers, hairdressers and retailers. They are in commonly used products such as fuels and LPG, solvents, cleaning solutions and agrichemicals. . .

Fonterra continues to build UHT capacity:

Fonterra has today announced it is further expanding its Waitoa UHT site as the Co-operative works to keep ahead of growing demand for its products.

Five years ago the site was an empty paddock, now it produces more than 80,000 cartons of UHT milk and cream every hour for global markets – and it’s about to get even busier.

A new line will be up and running by the end of the year. This is the third new line to be installed in the last 12 months. . . 

 


Thursday’s quiz

November 9, 2017

You’re welcome to pose the questions.

Anyone who stumps everyone will win a virtual bunch of spring roses.


National’s 10 big achievements

November 9, 2017

Hutt South MP Chirs Bishop writes on 10 of National’s big achievements in government:

. . Let me say at the outset that no government is perfect. All are affected by global economic circumstances and – as encapsulated in Macmillan’s famous dictum – “events, dear boy, events”. Governments never deliver all the fervent desires of their most ardent supporters, and most aren’t anywhere near as hopeless as partisans from the other side would have you believe.

I believe New Zealanders can look back with pride on nine years of National government. The country is demonstrably a better place than it was in 2008. Since Muldoon (who infamously, and depressingly, promised to leave the country no worse than he found it) that has surely been the litmus test for good government in this country. New Zealand is prouder, wealthier, more confident and aspirational than it was nine years ago. . . 

Nine years ago the country was in recession and forecast to have a decade of deficits.

Thanks to the good work through three terms of National-led government the situation and outlook are much rosier.

1. Getting the country through the global financial crisis – and back into the black

Any account of the last National government has to start with the GFC. Sir John Key, Bill English and team took office in the teeth of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and it’s worth recalling that New Zealand actually entered recession a year before the rest of the world. Treasury predicted never-ending deficits, unemployment to rise to over 10%, and debt to peak at 40% of GDP.

The government didn’t panic – and nor did it slash and burn. Social support was maintained, but poor quality programmes were rationalised, and new Budget operating allowances were pared back. In the years preceding 2008, Labour had increased spending unsustainably (50% in its last five years) for little to no effect. With Bill English in charge of the purse strings, departments were told to focus on results, not just to lobby for ever-escalating spending.

The government books got back into the black in 2014/15. Unemployment is now down to 4.6% and labour force participation is at record levels. Our debt to GDP topped at just 25%, and is coming down (Australia’s is 40, the UK’s is 90 and the USA’s is 108%!).

I’m proud that we did this while maintaining investment in core public services. For example, since 2009 health spending has increased by $3 billion per year, or around 25% (population growth has been 14%).

The incoming government inherits books that are the envy of the developed world.

2. Building a more productive, diverse and competitive economy

While dealing with the GFC, National started the process of consistent, moderate and sustained economic reform to build a more productive and competitive economy.

Through careful, measured tax reform, state asset sales and welfare reform, the results are plain to see. The economy is growing at 3% per year, one of the fastest growth rates in the world, and has generated 274,000 jobs in the last two years. The job numbers are remarkable: New Zealand has the third highest employment rate in the developed world (at a time of record migration – it seems that immigrants don’t “steal” New Zealand jobs, as some like to claim).

Economic strength has flowed through to people’s pay packets: average annual household income is up 42% since 2007, and average wages have increased by more than twice the rate of inflation. In fact after tax wages have increased twice as fast in New Zealand than in Australia since 2008.

The economy is more diverse. When the bottom fell out of dairy in 2014/15, New Zealand kept growing. The technology sector is expanding at a dizzying rate with revenue now over $10 billion. That famous “manufacturing crisis” that Labour used to talk about? The sector’s now been expanding for 57 consecutive months.

3. Dealing with the Canterbury earthquakes

Following the Canterbury earthquakes in 2011, the government was told that the local economy could expect a sustained downturn, a dramatic fall in population, and rising housing costs. National worked quickly to keep jobs in the region and support unemployed workers and businesses facing temporary shutdowns. The SCIRT programme to repair broken roads and pipes was an unequivocal success and the EQC home repair programme has repaired hundreds of thousands of homes – a building project the likes of which New Zealand has never seen. Yes, a small number of the repairs require remedial work, but this is typical in the private sector as well.

Many of the key anchor projects are now complete, including the Bus Interchange and brand new Justice Precinct. A solution has finally been achieved for the Cathedral and progress is being made again on the Convention Centre.The real news is in the results. The Canterbury economy is booming and the population higher than ever. The housing market is stable. The dire predictions following the earthquakes have not come to fruition – on the contrary, Canterbury is thriving and is well on the way to becoming one of the best cities in the world to work and live in.

4. Significant reductions in child poverty

Some will call it chutzpah for including this, but the facts are indisputable: child poverty measures fell on National’s watch, despite absurd hyperbole to the contrary. Using MSD’s Material Wellbeing Index, the number of children in material hardship in 2016 was 135,000. Too many, obviously, but well down on the 170,000 in hardship in 2008; and massively down on the 220,000 following the GFC (in 2011).

For a supposed “neoliberal” government regularly accused of showing no empathy for the disadvantaged, National’s record is impressive: the first real benefit increases in 43 years, massive insulation programmes for state homes (and the private market), breakfasts in schools programmes, free GP visits for all kids under 13, and more. National’s family incomes package (about to be legislated away under urgency by Labour) would have lifted around 50,000 further kids above the poverty line.

5. The Better Public Services programme and Social Investment

In 2012 the government did something quite profound. It set ten targets aimed at delivering results for our customers by reducing welfare dependency and crime, increasing immunisation and achievement at school, and more. This quiet revolution in the public service has led to improvements across the board: crime down 14% (youth crime is down a third), rheumatic fever has reduced 23%, 94% of 8 month olds are now fully immunised, to name a few.

Allied to this was “Social Investment” – targeted, evidence-based investment to secure better long-term results. The government spends $61 billion on social services every year. Far too often we don’t ask much about the efficacy of that spend – particularly for those with complex needs. Bill English often says: “we need to know what works, for whom, and at what cost.” Social Investment is about doing things differently: using sophisticated data to identify need and risk, and to invest up-front in what works. By breaking down silos between agencies, harnessing the power of community instead of big government this approach changes lives for the better, rather than just servicing misery.

6. A more competitive, affordable, secure and renewable electricity system

It’s a bit odd that Labour has promised a full-scale review of the electricity market (although it seems to be what new governments do – we’ve had one every time there’s been a change of government). I’m confident the review will show that New Zealand’s electricity policy settings are outstanding. That’s largely due to the work of Gerry Brownlee, who inherited a totally dysfunctional system. Under Labour consumers were told every second year to save power during winter, prices rose 72% in nine years, and security of supply was at serious risk. Moreover, despite rhetoric to the contrary, gas and coal use massively increased – Labour even underwrote the building of a new gas power plant!

Fast forward nine years and renewable electricity is at near record highs, electricity prices actually fell in 2017 in real terms thanks to more competition, and despite dry years we’ve had no forced conservation campaigns. Most astonishingly, we have decoupled economic growth from increased electricity demand: the economy is growing at around 3% while demand is flat and even falling.

7. Reforms to welfare to reward independence and work

National undertook the most significant reforms to the social welfare system in a generation. Benefit categories were simplified and new expectations introduced for beneficiaries, requiring them to be available for work or getting ready for work. Social obligations for beneficiaries with dependent children were introduced to ensure they were meeting health and education goals. National established the Youth Service, where case managers and providers help young people gain education, training and employment skills. Sixteen and 17 year olds on benefits were placed under money management.

Welfare reform demonstrably worked. The number of sole parents on a benefit is the lowest it has been since 1988. Sixty thousand fewer children are now growing up in a benefit-dependent household since 2011. The current lifetime liability of the benefit system has reduced by $13.7 billion over the last five years. This equates to clients spending 1.3 million fewer years on main benefits over their working lifetimes.

8. A big lift in the number of young Kiwis achieving educational success

When National came to office in 2008, one in two Māori and Pasifika kids left school without NCEA Level 2 – a passport for the future and the recognised minimum standard for other tertiary options.

In 2016, nearly 75% of Māori students, and nearly 80% of Pasifika students, achieved the NCEA Level 2 qualification – remarkable progress by any measure.

Under National, participation in Early Childhood Education hit record highs. The dysfunctional industry training system was overhauled. By 2016, there were 43,000 apprentices around the country, including 100,000 trainees. The Network for Learning was started and completed (on time and under budget) providing ultra-fast, uncapped, high-quality data, at no cost to schools. Pathways from school to study and work were overhauled through the Youth Guarantee and Trades Academies.

9. Treaty of Waitangi Settlements

Despite Māori overwhelmingly voting for them, and Labour liking to preen as the party of and for Māori, the Treaty Settlement process stalled between 1999 and 2006, only getting started once Michael Cullen took over the portfolio.

Using his skills developed in a former life as a negotiator for Ngāi Tahu, and his genuine good-hearted commitment to reconciliation, Chris Finlayson just got on with the job. The results speak for themselves: 59 Deeds of Settlement signed in nine years, meaning the majority of historical Treaty settlements across New Zealand have now been resolved. And consider this: it was Chris Finlayson that delivered the long overdue apology to the Parihaka community for the atrocious actions of the Crown committed almost 140 years ago. Not only that, National gave legal personhood to Te Urewera and the Whanganui River, allowing long-overdue settlements to proceed.

A final point. The Foreshore and Seabed confiscation was one of the most disgraceful acts of the Clark government. National restored the rule of law by restoring the right of Maori to go to court to prove customary rights through the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011.

10. A turnaround in net migration

One of National’s most effective ads in the 2008 election featured John Key standing in Westpac Stadium, pointing to the 30,000 plus yellow seats, and noting that about the same number of New Zealanders were leaving to move to Australia every year. National said that we’d turn it around – and we did.

Quite remarkably, net migration between New Zealand and Australia for the year to June 2017 was 560 – in our favour. Usually people move from smaller countries to much larger countries. But over the last nine years, New Zealanders literally voted with their feet: staying home and coming home in record numbers. Around 10,000 more Kiwis are coming home than under Labour, and far fewer are leaving.

There’s so much more that could be added: the most significant action on improving freshwater quality in New Zealand’s history, the National Sciences Challenges and a big lift in research and development, huge investments in infrastructure (such as the Waterview tunnel and the Kapiti Expressway), the ambitious goal of Predator Free NZ, and so much more.

National leaves behind a better New Zealand than it inherited from Labour in 2008. And we are hungry to hold the government to account so it doesn’t squander the hard-won gains of the last nine years.

National has left the incoming government with a very solid foundation of success on which to build.

It owes it to all New Zealanders not to fritter it away, to keep the policies that were working well and improve on those which need to be done better.

 

 


Compensation necessary for disclosure

November 9, 2017

Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen have been living in a nightmare since Mycoplasma bovis was discovered in some of their cows:

The cost of Mycoplasma bovis could be a $50 million to $100m hit to Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen’s business, that’s if it continues longer term.

But that doesn’t count the cost of the heartache to them, their workers and community.

When they notified animal health issues in their dairy herd they believed they were doing the right thing for their people, their community, the Government and the wider dairy industry.

Now they are not so sure.

“In fact, to date, the way this response has been managed we feel has caused us and many other farmers in the district to be alienated and if the same circumstances were to recur we would have to seriously reconsider doing what we did,” Aad van Leeuwen said.

“It’s been a three-month nightmare and it’s far from over yet,” the couple said. . . 

The couple’s plight hasn’t been helped by the spread of rumours based on ignorance and misinformation.

Looking back over the three months as several of the group’s farms now face eradication of all cows, the van Leeuwens harbour much disappointment over how the response was managed.

“It has been horrendous on us, our staff and our contract and sharemilkers.

“The impact has been devastating on all our people and for many it will mean the end forever – their businesses and their reputations have been destroyed.”

The near 90 staff had just had enough and being associated with a group farm had tainted them for the future, van Leeuwen said.

“And it shouldn’t be. There’s no need for it. There is a dirty stigma attached to it all now. People talk like it’s a plague. It’s nothing like that at all.”

He laid blame on an overdose of misinformation and people not knowing what they were doing.

He was critical of MPI’s response time.

“It took them five days to find out where our farms were and 10 days to put their feet on the first infected farm.

“We had the cows well sorted and separated by then – thank God this was not foot and mouth,” he said.

“We were very disappointed with comments from the media that targeted the robots (indoor system). We asked MPI, through the media, to clear this up and they never did. Their statements made it worse at the last public meeting.

“To get it right the initial outbreak was over just three farms, two outdoor grass and one what we call in-out, in over autumn and winter for shelter,” van Leeuwen said. 

The outbreak on the first infected property was the in-out property but the cows were outside calving at the time.

It linked to two further farms, both outdoors.

 Other rumours linked the outbreak to imported semen but the van Leeuwens don’t import semen directly. It would be very, very unlikely that only their stock was infected by semen from New Zealand suppliers.

But, ironically, as MPI put key emphasis on doing 39,000 blood tests, the blood testing and its lengthy process had been deemed unreliable, van Leeuwen said.

“MPI indicated that to us. They have admitted what we know too from our research of other countries that bulk milk testing is the best testing.

“That has caused a massive issue for us as we have a lot of young stock obviously not milking so blood tested and it’s unreliable.”

The van Leeuwens had asked MPI why more bulk milk testing was not being done, not just on their herds but also regionally and nationwide.

“We haven’t had an answer but we believe there seems to be no logic in what they are doing with blood testing.

“We got stuck in straight away and talked to the Aussies. They told us the best way was to bulk milk test at least two samples within one week from the same herd three days apart to catch the shedders. We are way past that now and believe this wasn’t done.

“It’s been so frustrating. We know our business, we have researched this and done everything possible to help and we have co-operated 100% but they have not listened or picked up on our input.

“We have taken the hit, for our people, our district and the NZ dairy industry.

“We were prepared to do that but now we are concerned that it will all be wasted.

“It is our belief that Mycoplasma bovis is in NZ as it got into our herd somehow and any day it could break out somewhere else and what does MPI do – believe they have it contained but we feel they may be grasping at straws to satisfy public perception.

“No one can deny the fact that it had to come to NZ from somewhere – that is the key to whether they can contain it or not.”

The disease must be somewhere else in New Zealand. It is possible it has been here for some time and gone undetected. It was only diagnosed in van Leeuwen’s stock through their vet’s extra research. (Covered in the ODT here). Other farmers and other vets may well have not recognised the symptoms.

As the first cows went to slaughter (on November 1) in the eradication process of an initial 4000 head of stock, the van Leeuwens were working on the economic analysis of their business going forward.

That included the overall cost of having all the group farms under indefinite lock-down, lost opportunity with young stock, the cost of not being able to use their own bulls, the added cost of having to retain calves and overall loss of production taking in the quarantine period of the properties and herd rebuilding.

“Compensation – we don’t know where the hell we are at.

“They are going to kill our stock but to date there is no proper guided plan for compensation before commencement of killing our stock.

“Depending on whether this disease is found in the robots, it hasn’t been, not yet anyway, we could be looking of anything from $50 million to $100m,” van Leeuwen said.

“They tell us we will be no worse off than when this started but we have nothing on the table as yet to prove this.

“We need compensation guaranteed from day one. The first day of lockdown of the farms has been the start of lost production and income.

“We have had three months of uncertainty and alienation. It’s been too long. We can’t afford to be waiting too long for compensation and while we were able to help keep our people in the saddle through the downturn we can’t do it a second time.

“We have worked 32 years in dairy, 24 in the Waimate district where we have invested heavily in the dairy industry and its processing businesses.

“Now, because of no fault of our own we could hit the wall before Christmas,” van Leeuwen said.

“For too long we have had our hands tied behind our back. We can’t make our own decisions and forward planning – there has been no clear plan from day one and three months down the track we are no further ahead.

“It’s disappointing, it’s devastating and it just should never have got to this.

“The MPI approach needs to change if they want people to notify,” van Leeuwen said.

“On the only positive note – if we do survive this, the VLDG will be Mb-free.

“As for the rest of the country, I can’t say that with any confidence for them,” he said.

If TB is diagnosed in a herd farmers are compensated for any stock that is killed.

That ensures they aren’t disadvantaged by doing the right thing – declaring their stock is infected and co-operating with vets and anyone else involved.

The van Leeuwens and their staff are losing their milking herd, replacement stock and their income.

They have done everything right from the start. They and their staff must be compensated for their own sakes and to ensure that other farmers know that it is safe to do the right thing should their cattle become infected.

Keith Woodford says the Mycoplasma bovis riddle is far from solved:

. . . The whole saga of the outbreak has been poorly communicated.

The starting point for error has been the widely reported falsehood that it is on intensive confinement farms owned by the van Leeuwen Group.   In fact, the disease has not been detected to date on any of the four robot-milked free-stall farms owned by this family. Rather it is on five outdoor farms that they own.

One of the infected farms does have indoor wintering facilities. That farm is on heavy land with two free-stall barns available for wintering and in bad weather. But this is not an intensive farm like in America or much of Europe. These are grazing cows. And the intensity is broadly similar to some hundreds of New Zealand farmers who have off-paddock wintering facilities of various types.   Unlike many New Zealand farms, this farm does milk cows during the winter.

Two of the other infected VLG farms have spring calving and seasonal milking. Another is a dry-stock farm, and the remaining infected farm is a calf-rearing unit.

The media has widely portrayed the van Leeuwen family as so-called rich listers. What has not been portrayed is that this family has got there the hard way. Aad immigrated to New Zealand in 1983, and Wilma’s parents also immigrated from Holland. Aad and Wilma worked their way up the dairy ladder, first as farm workers, then as managers, contract milkers and sharemilkers, and finally as farm owners.

It has been a more than thirty-year journey of hard work, innovation and business acumen. Some of their children are also now involved in the business. 

These are hard working and innovative farmers who have created many jobs and made a significant economic and social contribution to their local community and the wider country.

I have taken an interest in the outbreak since first detected back in July. I contacted the van Leeuwens at that time to try and understand what was happening, and I have stayed in touch. My interest is that of a semi-retired academic who likes to follow issues from an independent perspective. I go wherever the evidence takes me.

Back in August, I wrote an article on  Mycoplasma published in New Zealand Farmer, also at interest.co.nz, and also here at my own site.   At that time, I wrote that “Regardless of whether or not the current outbreak can be contained, and the disease then eradicated, the ongoing risks from Mycoplasma bovis are going to have a big effect on the New Zealand dairy industry”.

I also wrote back then that “If the disease is contained and eradicated, then the industry and governmental authorities will need to work out better systems to prevent re-entry from overseas. And if the disease is not eradicated, then every farmer will have to implement new on-farm management strategies to minimise the effects.”

Those statements remain unchanged some three months later. . . 

My understanding is that there has never been a documented case anywhere in the world of it being transferred in frozen semen, and all imported semen is frozen.

Aad van Leeuwen tells me that the van Leeuwen group has never imported semen themselves. However, like many other farmers, they do purchase semen from the major semen companies. If semen is the source, and the disease is not elsewhere, then the van Leeuwens have been exceedingly unlucky to be the only farmers to be struck. And if that is the case, then a great many other farmers can only thank their lucky stars that it was not them.

Given the lack of evidence for semen being the source, other possibilities need to be considered.

The normal transmission method for Mycoplasma bovis is from animal to animal. That raises the possibility that the original source is a live import. However, the oral advice from MPI (yet to be confirmed in writing) is that there have been no live cattle imported into New Zealand for the last three years.  

Regardless of when animals were last imported into New Zealand, the importer was not the van Leeuwens, and the van Leeuwens have never received live imports on their farms. So once again, if a live import is the source, then the van Leeuwens have been exceedingly unlucky to the recipients of the disease. And what was the path by which it got there?

Molecular biologists may eventually be able to identify the strain of the organism and thereby identify its source as either Australian, which could implicate a live import, or alternatively Europe or the USA, which could implicate semen.

Testing for Mycoplasma bovis is not easy. Testing of individual animals can be by antibody (ELISA) testing of blood, but there are problems of both false positives and false negatives. Bulk tests of milk can be made using sophisticated PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technology that seeks out key DNA sequences, but this will only give positive results if the animals are shedding the bacteria in their milk. With PCR, and with the levels of specificity being used, it needs multiple animals to be shedding before a positive reading is achieved. Swabs of animals can also be taken and tested.

In regard to testing, the bottom line is that no method is reliable by itself and multiple tests are required. The van Leeuwens have experienced this themselves, with one of their herds testing negative on two occasions and only on the third test did a mass of reactors show up. In the periods between the tests, no new animals came onto that farm, so presumably it was there all along from prior to the first testing.

There is now good confidence that all animal movements downstream from the van Leeuwen farms have been traced, and those herds continue to be rigorously tested. However, it is far from clear as to the extent of any upstream testing looking for the original source and dissemination from there.

The VLG-owned herds have been closed herds with no new animals brought in from outside the group for more than three years. However, like probably the majority of New Zealand farms, one sharemilker-owned herd on a VLG property has had animals brought in, and this herd is infected.  This raises the possibility that it first came onto the van Leeuwen farms up to several years ago, but only became evident when it spread into one of the milking herds.

MPI have not been forthcoming as to the upstream (source) testing that has been conducted. But Aad van Leeuwen tells me it is his understanding that MPI upstream testing has not been undertaken looking at source farms going back prior to the start of the 2017 year. If this is correct, then it would seem an important omission.

Although MPI have conducted many thousands of tests, it is not clear as to the proportion of New Zealand’s farms that have undergone any testing, and the level of that testing. Almost certainly, it is only a small proportion of farms that have been tested. MPI have been unable to provide this information to me. And therein lies the uncertainty.

One of the problems we have in New Zealand is that the only Kiwis with Mycoplasma bovis expertise are those who have worked and trained overseas.  I know the van Leeuwens are drawing on overseas expertise, but it is not clear to me as to the extent MPI is benefitting from overseas expertise.

What I am personally hearing from people with overseas Mycoplasma bovis experience is that we should not be confident that we have the disease contained. This is particularly the case given that we really have no idea as to how the disease got here. 

If Mycoplasma is found to be endemic in New Zealand, then it will not be the death knell of the industry. But it will be a big nuisance. And we will undoubtedly need to implement some of the dairy hygiene measures that are typically seen overseas but which are largely ignored in New Zealand. In particular, farmers will need to think carefully about sending their young stock off-farm for grazing with young stock from other farms. Feeding raw (non-pasteurised) milk to calves will also need to be eliminated.   Purchased bulls are another potential source of disease transfer.

Two neighbouring properties are now in lock down because of ‘suspicious’ tests:

However, the farms have not tested positive for the disease, but the ministry said the test results from one of the farms was “suspicious”. . . 

Geoff Gwyn from the Ministry for Primary Industries said as a precaution it put restricted place notices on both the properties, and expected a confirmed test result by the end of the week.

The disease was identified on two other farms several weeks ago and now their is concern about two more. These farmers and their neighbours will now be very nervous.

It would allay one of their fears, and make it much more likely any other farmers with concerns would notify MPI, if there was certainty over fair compensation for loss of stock and income.

Mycoplasma bovis doesn’t infect people and it isn’t nearly as serious as Foot and Mouth disease. But it needs to be taken very seriously.

That includes dealing with the farmers sensitively and fairly and giving them clear and full information on compensation.


Quote of the day

November 9, 2017

The fact that there are singer-songwriters dealing with substantive issues is encouraging. It’s important for young people to perceive that there are acceptable avenues of dissent, because we live in a world where dissent is hard-pressed; treated as if it were unpatriotic. I’ve always liked the concept of the loyal opposition. It allows for dissent to be a respectable part of the whole.Mary Travers who was born on this day in 1936.


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