Rural round-up

April 2, 2018

Action call over any found to have illegally brought in ‘M.bovis’ – Sally Rae:

Consequences are needed if any farmers have put other farmers, animals and livelihoods at risk, let alone the New Zealand economy, DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says.

Dr Mackle was responding to an announcement by the Ministry for Primary Industries yesterday that it had simultaneously executed search warrants at three locations as part of the Mycoplasma bovis investigation.

The New Zealand Herald reported there was growing speculation the bacterial cattle disease was introduced to New Zealand through illegally imported livestock drugs, and sources suggested Tuesday’s simultaneous searches were in Auckland and Southland. . .

Fonterra negotiating ‘roadblocks’ in China – Fran O’Sullivan:

Fonterra’s news that it was writing down its $774 million investment in Chinese infant formula company Beingmate by $405m inevitably dominated news headlines after the dairy co-operative announced its 2018 interim result to the NZX.

But that was eclipsed when chairman John Wilson announced the seven-year reign of his chief executive Theo Spierings was in its final phase.

It was a brutal press conference. . .

Food for thought: How to secure New Zealand’s food supply in the face of a changing climate – Tess Nicholl:

We take for granted the bounty on offer at our supermarkets, but destructive cyclones and the hottest month in 150 years are turning attention to how long New Zealand can provide fresh food for its growing population. Tess Nichol investigates.

On the outskirts of Dargaville, Andre de Bruin has been growing kumara for the past two decades.

He produces 40 hectares of the purple tuber annually, but last year his yield was halved thanks to what de Bruin calls a “perfect storm” — drought followed by unseasonal amounts of rain right before harvest.

“We had drought drought drought, then bam, floods,” he recalls. . .

Get the basics right – Sam Whitelock:

I come from a farming background and once I complete my rugby career I’ll be taking the lessons I’ve learnt from professional sport and applying them back on the farm. (Sam Whitelock, Farmstrong Ambassador)

Rugby has certainly taught me heaps about how to look after myself and handle pressure.

I reckon rugby and farming are really similar that way – there’s always targets to meet and results to achieve.

So how can you prepare for the ups and downs of it all? . .

Merino stud tour held in conjunction with awards – Yvonne O’Hara:

About 170 people took part in a two-day self-drive tour visiting eight merino studs in Central Otago earlier this month.

The tour was held in conjunction with the Otago Merino Association Awards, which were announced at a formal dinner in Alexandra on March 16.

The studs on the tour were Nine Mile Station, Malvern Downs, Earnscleugh Station, Matangi Station, Little Valley Station, Matarae Station, Stonehenge Station and Armidale Merino Stud.

Lunch was at Earnscleugh Station’s woolshed . .

 Art Basel Hong Kong 2018: Loro Piana’s cloud-like “The Gift of Kings” exhibition 590 panels of the world’s finest wool make for a jubilant immersive experience   – Alessandro De Toni:

In conjunction with Art Basel Hong Kong, Loro Piana—one of the world’s most prestigious cashmere and luxury fabric manufacturers—pays homage to its most renowned material known as The Gift of Kings.

It’s quite a bold name but it represents an incredibly fine, feather-light and rare wool sourced by Loro Piana through a 30-year-long collaboration with a selection of Merino sheep breeders in Australia and New Zealand. This material, measuring only 12 microns (one thousandth of a millimeter), is far finer than cashmere and only available in very limited quantities, meaning it’s quite extraordinary that it was used as the principal source material for this installation.

Advertisements

New strategic vision for dairy

November 22, 2017

The dairy industry has launched a new strategic vision:

The new strategic vision for the dairy sector will lead to a longer term conversation about what New Zealand’s future farm and food systems could look like, says DairyNZ Chief Executive Tim Mackle.

Today the dairy sector launched its new strategy ‘Dairy Tomorrow’, a joint sector-led initiative involving DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, DCANZ, and Dairy Women’s Network.

“We are proud of our achievements over the last decade,” says Dr Mackle. “It’s set us up to address the challenges and opportunities we now face as a result of the growth we’ve experienced over recent years.”

“Our shared vision is to improve lives with every drop of New Zealand milk, whether those are the lives of our dairy people, our communities or our consumers.

“We believe sustainable dairy farming has a critical role to play in New Zealand’s future prosperity and wellbeing- a future with a focus on farming within environmental limits while maintaining our profitability and success on the global market.”

The ‘Dairy Tomorrow’ strategy has six commitments and 22 corresponding goals. Dr Mackle says some goals have firm time frames in place while others are more aspirational.

“We want to begin straight away collaborating on strategies and actions toward achieving swimmable waterways and finding new opportunities to reduce or offset our greenhouse gas emissions. These actions will be ongoing priorities,” says Dr Mackle.

“At the same time we’ve put some deadlines in place for implementing new initiatives, including to develop cutting edge science and technology solutions and to implement a new framework for world leading on-farm animal care.”

Barry Harris, Acting Chair for DairyNZ, says the commitments and goals within the Strategy will help prepare the sector for the future. “Overall they reflect what is important to the farmers and stakeholders who contributed to the development of the Strategy.”

“We heard very clearly that farmers want options and solutions to help them farm sustainably. Maintaining our international competitiveness is essential, and leveraging new digital and other technologies will be essential to that,” says Mr Harris.

“We also want to ensure that New Zealand dairy remains a valued part of the diet. That requires us to be open and transparent about our performance. We know the demand for high quality dairy will always exist, so long as we can prove our production chain is sustainable.

“Another key theme is the importance of people to the sector. We need to focus on bringing talented people into the dairy sector, providing them with a great work environment, and helping them to develop their careers.

“We are already well on our way to being world leading due to our international competitiveness and the strong systems we have in place to ensure that our products are safe and of the highest quality.

“We want to ensure our sector is contributing to New Zealand- helping to make this country the best place to live, and for dairy to be a celebebrated part of  the National identity and the kiwi way of life.”

 You can read the strategy at Dairy Tomorrow.


Tributes to Michael Spaans

November 21, 2017

Michael Spaans, a former director of Fonterra and chair of DairyNZ has died.

Fonterra chair John Wilson paid tribute to him:

Sadly, today our Co-operative has lost one of our strongest people with former Director Michael Spaans passing away last night. He is survived by his wife Kristina and children Olivia, Logan and Harvey.

Earlier this year, Michael decided to step down from the Fonterra Board and focus on trying to recover from cancer. He and I go back many years and I saw him approach his illness in the same way he approached everything in life. He was resolute and determined and did his utmost to continue on as normal. It was a brave fight and I am sure that will not surprise those of you who knew him.

Michael was a proud dairy farmer with a passion for our Co-op and our industry. I have often talked about the importance of having leaders developing within our ranks and Michael is a very fine example. Michael served on the New Zealand Dairy Group Shareholder Council, before joining the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council at the time our Co-op was formed. He was also part of the first intake for the Fonterra Governance Development Programme, and later built his governance experience outside the industry including directorships with ASB Bank, Shoof International, DairyNZ, Manuka SA, Waikato Innovation Park, Innovation Waikato and Ospri New Zealand.

He then brought this experience, along with a huge level of energy and commitment to our Board, and won the respect of his fellow Directors and farmers for his willingness to listen and engage. Michael was a man who knew the importance of detail. He made sure that he knew this business extremely well, understood our strategy and was completely across the detail of the numbers. He always looked for constructive solutions and thought deeply about our Co-op’s governance and his role in the evolution of our business.

His insights and experience — along with his genuine interest and inquisitive mind — were also invaluable on Fonterra’s Milk Price Panel, the Co-operative Relations Committee, and the Audit and Finance Committee.

As late as last month, Michael was working for the betterment of New Zealand farmers in his capacity as Chairman of DairyNZ. He has also remained an ambassador for Fonterra on the international stage and in Wellington, recently speaking at the United Nations in New York on behalf of the Global Dairy Platform and all farmers.

We have lost a close friend, leader and an advocate of our industry much too soon. Our thoughts and deep gratitude for all that he contributed go to his family.

DairyNZ also paid tribute to him:

It is with great sadness that DairyNZ acknowledges the passing of (Reindert) Michael Spaans (54), husband, father, farmer, director, and recent chair of DairyNZ.

Michael Spaans

Michael has been a valuable member of the DairyNZ board since 2008 and was elected chair in November 2015. He was also a director of Fonterra from 2013 until January 2017 when illness forced an early retirement.  However, he continued on as a director of ASB and Shoof International, and with his farming interests in Canterbury, Chile, and the United States, as well as his home farm.

DairyNZ acting chair, Barry Harris, says: “Michael will be greatly missed by the board, our staff, our farmers and the wider Waikato community. His passion and knowledge of the sector, and dedication to improving outcomes for dairy farming profitability and sustainability are well known. We are going to miss his thoughtful debating and farmer-first approach to investment, his involvement with the dairy leaders group, his focus as chair of the Waikato Dairy Leaders Group and the group’s desire to improve the state of the Waikato River, and support for the Healthy Rivers plan in particular.”

Growing up on a family farm at Tauhei, near Morrinsville, Michael attended Mangateparu School, Morrinsville Intermediate and Morrinsville College. He later took over his parents’ farm at Manawaru, residing there with his wife Kristina and their three children, now aged 16, 20 and 22, until his passing.

A keen basketballer as a young man, Michael started farming life in Te Aroha as a young sharemilker, getting into governance around the time of the creation of Fonterra. He started with the old New Zealand Dairy Group shareholders’ council and continued to serve as Te Aroha Ward rep when the council and company became part of Fonterra. From there he has held many governance positions, dedicating his life to improving farming in New Zealand.

“Michael always had presence and not just because he was 6ft 9in tall, but because he was thoughtful, considered, and passionate about farming,” says DairyNZ’s chief Executive Dr Tim Mackle.

“Besides his love and dedication to his family, he was also dedicated to DairyNZ, even ill, he made such an effort to add value to our organisation.  He felt and was often quoted as saying how vital an organisation like DairyNZ was to act in the best interests of farmers, and the DairyNZ family are going to miss him.

“Our deepest sympathies lie with his family, especially his wife Kristina, who has also dedicated her past nine years to us too.”

A replacement chair of DairyNZ will be announced shortly, along with a replacement solution for a new farmer director.

Fifty four is far too young for a good man whose death will leave a large hole in his family and circle of friends.

Farming will also miss his contributions as a farmer, director and community stalwart.


Govt business what not how

October 30, 2017

The Green Party is sticking to its plan to reduce dairy farming:

Prior to the election, the Green Party said it would pay more than $136 million for farmers to move to more sustainable practices and if it were in government it would invest in a Sustainable Farming Fund.

Green Party leader James Shaw said a priority would be putting together a package to help farmers make the transition from dairy farming.

He said the Greens wouldn’t be pushing for a cap on the number of cows.

But Mr Shaw said dairy farmers would need help to change.

“A lot of dairy farmers are still heavily in debt from the acquisition of the land and also the conversions and also it’s a pretty difficult time when the price of milk is still somewhat depressed.

“So you know the thing we’re going to be pushing hardest on is making sure that there is a package available for farmers to help them make that transition.”

Mr Shaw said dairy farmers needed to make the transition to more sustainable methods of farming.

Setting standards for water quality is the business of government.

Dictating how that is achieved is not.

It might be that dairying isn’t appropriate in some places. But other land uses aren’t necessarily any kinder to the environment and it could be that a change in management could make dairying a better option than any other form of farming.

Dairying has got a bad reputation, some of which might be justified. But some is based on historical practices no longer in use and some on alternative facts not supported by science.

Some of the latter comes from organisations with an anti-dairying agenda.

Jamie McFadden, a member of Federated Farmers North Canterbury executive, rightly asks is our freshwater fishery really in crisis?

Last year Fish & Game sought and received approval from the Department of Conservation (DoC) to place a winter fishing ban on all North Canterbury rivers below State Highway 1.

At the time, Fish & Game claimed the North Canterbury freshwater fishery was in crisis and it was because of farming.

Both DoC and the Rural Advocacy Network have requested the evidence supporting these claims. After 18 months no evidence has been forthcoming. DoC now realise they have been misled and have said they will not renew the fishing ban unless Fish & Game provide evidence.

Earlier this year I attended a public meeting in Rangiora organised by Fish and Game where the fishing ban was discussed. I presented our submission challenging the lack of evidence behind the fishing ban, particularly for the Hurunui and Waiau rivers. A show of hands was taken and the clear majority of the 70 attendees felt the ban should not apply to these rivers. Of those who fished the Hurunui and Waiau the majority thought these were healthy fisheries. . . 

Clearly there are a range of factors affecting our freshwater fishery and increasing fishing pressure, particularly near Christchurch, is one of them.

A local fishing guide has for several years been undertaking the annual trout spawning surveys in the Waimakariri River. This year he reported better numbers than have ever been seen and some superb stream improvements by many farmers – the future is bright.

In late autumn I checked the middle reaches of the Hurunui River catchment and photographed numerous shoals of 10-20 trout. In one pool alone I counted 65 good-sized healthy trout.

A balanced report on the state of our freshwater fishery would acknowledge there are some healthy fisheries, concerns with some other fisheries and a range of factors affecting both. It is disappointing that Fish & Game has made no attempt to correct their misinformation in the media.

Many farming families are Fish & Game licence holders and enjoy the recreational opportunities our rivers provide. Farmers want to know what they need to do to fix any water quality problems they are causing.

There are many examples of farmers actively engaging in improving water quality and undertaking stream enhancements. Farmers want to work with organisations like Fish & Game but the continual attacks on farmers undermine the ability to achieve this.

We would like to see Fish & Game publicly drop the anti-farming broad brush ‘dirty dairy’ campaign, correct their misinformation in the media and develop a more constructive approach to freshwater issues.

Farmers, and others, are working to improve water quality and this report from Seven Sharp showing definite improvements in Taranaki dairy country.

Meanwhile, science is making progress with pasture species:

Research is in progress but plantain-based pastures may be useful for reducing nitrate leaching while maintaining or increasing milksolids production.

The urine patch is the major source of nitrogen loss to the environment on dairy farms and different forages can be used to reduce nitrate leaching, either by lowering the nitrogen loading in urine patches or increasing the nitrogen uptake from the urine patch.

Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching (FRNL)

Research in Canterbury and Waikato the FRNL programme has found that urine-N concentration of cows grazing plantain was 56% lower than those grazing perennial ryegrass/white clover pastures, and 33% lower for cows grazing 50/50 pasture-plantain.

Within FRNL, diverse pastures that include plantain were identified as a promising tool for reducing N leaching. Modelling estimated that, at commercial scale, N leaching could be reduced by 10 and 20% when the area of the farm sown in diverse pastures was 20 and 50%, respectively. This was because of lower total urinary N excretion and lower urinary N concentration (Beukes et al. 2014; Romera et al. 2016).

Sustainability balances economic, environmental and social concerns.

Dairying generally gets ticks for its economic and social contributions and farmers and industry bodies like DairyNZ, are making good progress to address environmental concerns .

DairyNZ acting chair Barry Harris said last season saw dairy export earnings reach $13.4 billion, which is on par with the five-year average, and illustrates how well farmers have responded to the low milk prices of previous seasons.

“I see the decade ahead of us to be transformational for our sector. Never before have we had a stronger mandate for the dairy sector to concentrate on productivity – to produce more from less, and to do so sustainably,” says Barry.

“We support initiatives that incentivise farmers to use the best environmental practices. While the 2010s have been about dairy positioning itself for the changes ahead, I see the 2020s as heavily focused on making those changes.

“New Zealand’s environmental reputation, the reputation that gives us an advantage on the global market, relies on us upholding and improving our sustainability.” . . 

Thanks to good science, herd numbers can decrease while production increases.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said in 2016/17 national cow numbers fell to 4.86 million from 5 million previously, with the average herd size dropping five cows to 414.

“Yet production per cow set a new record – increasing by 9kg per cow (381kg MS/cow).” . . 

 

The government and its partners needs to stick to the what, not the how.

Good progress is being made and it will continue to be made not by political dictates but by good practice based on sound research.


Rural round-up

October 21, 2017

Farm life and environment important for the Laugesen family – Kate Taylor:

A Central Hawke’s Bay farming family has fenced, leased and worked its way to farm ownership. Kate Taylor reports.

Young pheasant chicks will be making their new home on an Elsthorpe farm dam this Christmas.

But the Laugesen kids might not be there to see much of them. They’re hoping to repeat last year’s summer holidays and camp out the back of the farm.

Planting native trees, regenerating wetlands and restoring birdlife is a huge bonus of farming for Graeme (who’s known by all as Logie) and Kate Laugesen and their children – Phoebe, 15, Maddy, 13, and Jack, 9. . .

Finalists announced for the 2017 Enterprising Rural Women Awards :

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is proud to announce the category winners and finalists for the Enterprising Rural Women Awards 2017.

The four finalists are vying for the Supreme Enterprising Rural Women Award, which will be revealed on Saturday 18 November at the RWNZ National Conference at the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill. . . 

Enterprising Cromwell winemaker up for Supreme Rural Woman Award

A Cromwell woman has been recognised for her business success, creating a niche market for port and providing solutions for fast-growing boutique vineyards.

Debra Cruickshank, of Tannacrieff Wines, is one of four finalists to be announced for the Enterprising Rural Women Awards 2017 after taking out a category win – the SWAZI New Zealand Entrepreneurial Enterprising Rural Women Award.

She joins Kylie Davidson and Emma Hammond, of Hammond and Davidson Accountants, in Riversdale; Jo Kempton, of Happy Belly Ferments, in Greytown; and Kiri Elworthy and Jenny Bargh, of Tora Coastal Walk, Martinborough. . .

Three generations working together – Sally Rae:

There’s a bit of a family affair going on at Waipori Station.
In fact, Pete Ronald jokes he has warned manager Dave Vaughan there could well be a takeover.

Mr Ronald (61), his daughter Nicky Adams (41) and his granddaughter Shelby Wilson (19) — who is Ms Adams’ niece — all work on the 12,000ha Landcorp-owned property which surrounds Lake Mahinerangi.

There’s a reasonable amount of good-natured banter when the three gather over lunch, with Ms Adams wearing her trademark cap emblazoned with Auntie. . .

Pneumonia, parasites something to get excited about – Sally Rae:

Kathryn McRae jokes that she is ‘‘one of those strange people’’ who gets excited about parasites and lungs.

Farm staff at AgResearch’s Invermay campus always know that if an animal dies from pneumonia, she will want to inspect its lungs.

Animal health is a particular interest for Dr McRae, who grew up on a sheep and beef farm at Mokoreta in eastern Southland.

The property has been in the McRae family for more than 100 years and has been the recipient of a Century Farm award. . .

Strong leadership needed on climate change:

The dairy sector is calling for the future Government to provide the strong direction necessary for New Zealand to move toward a low emissions future, says DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle.

His comments came following the release of the Our Atmosphere and Climate 2017 report.

The report confirms that global emissions of carbon dioxide topped 400 parts per million in 2016, the highest for 800,000 years. . .

Visa changes for workers will leave gaps – Jemma Brackebush:

A Filipino leader in the dairy industry is worried tighter restrictions to visas could leave huge holes in the farming workforce because they do not accurately reflect what happens on farms.

In late July, the government announced that workers in low-skilled jobs earning below $41,500 a year would after three years have to leave New Zealand for 12 months before returning on a new visa.

Roberto Bolanos is a New Zealand citizen with more than a decade’s experience in the industry, and feared the changes could leave gaps in the workforce if immigrants had to leave after three years. . .

 

 


Rural round-up

October 15, 2017

Provenance story not just clean and green – Pam Tipa:

New Zealand’s provenance story is not always based on clean and green; often it relates to the friendliness of the people, says Mark Piper, Fonterra’s director group R&D.

The NZ Story and how it resonates depends where in the world you are, he told an ExportNZ conference.

“To be honest, when you go around the world you would struggle to find somewhere where NZ doesn’t resonate – be it the Hobbits or the clean green image of water tripping down the snow-capped mountains. . .

Beef + Lamb New Zealand unveils plans for ‘Future Farm’ to promote excellence in sector:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) is to establish a “Future Farm” to trial new technologies and farm systems as part of its strategy to support farming excellence and lift farm productivity and profitability.

The Future Farm, which will be a hill country sheep and beef property with around 6,000 stock units, will operate as a fully commercial livestock farming enterprise and feature state of the art monitoring, measuring and communications technologies. . . 

Dairy sector challenge: target the right people for our workforce:

The dairy sector is calling for a future Government to lead a strong workforce strategy to support the growth of a skilled workforce for the dairy sector, says DairyNZ Chief Executive Tim Mackle.

“Young people deserve the opportunity to do well within the agricultural industry. We need a strong long-term plan that aligns training through the school curriculum with practical experience on the farm,” says Dr Mackle. . . 

Vaccines control disease in people, livestock – Mark Ross:

Vaccination is the most effective way to protect against life-threatening diseases such as distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and leptospirosis that affect New Zealand animals.

NZ rates of leptospirosis are among the world’s highest, says the NZ Veterinary Association (NZVA). The zoonotic disease afflicts rats, dogs, pigs, cattle and people.  It puts farmers, particularly dairy farmers, at risk as it can spread from infected urine in dairy sheds.  It is also an occupational risk for meat workers, who can contract the disease in the same way. NZVA says anyone in contact with cattle could be at risk. . . 

From potatoes to broadband: The man connecting King Country – Jemma Brackebush:

A potato farmer who built his own radio site to provide broadband to his property has just won a government contract to provide wireless internet to the King Country.

After the success of his personal project, Hawke’s Bay-based farmer Lachlan Chapman established AoNet Broadband in 2014, which now has six staff.

The company has just won the Wireless Internet Service Provider to service the King Country, as well as a small portion of the $150 million the government has dished out to improve broadband in rural areas around the country. . .

Civil defence preparedness a farmer priority:

Getting accustomed to Civil Defence planning and preparedness should be a farmer’s priority says Federated Farmers.

Throughout this week, Civil Defence is raising public awareness with their “Get Ready Week” promotion that coincides with International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction on Thursday.

The message should be loud and clear to all farmers says Federated Farmers Vice President Andrew Hoggard. . . 

Silver Fern Farms Restaurant Awards 2018:

A new season and a new challenge for New Zealand’s best restaurants

Silver Fern Farms has announced a new format restaurant awards with new categories, new judges and a new season showcasing autumn red meat dishes in 2018.

The 2018 Silver Fern Farms Restaurant Awards build on the success of the Premier Selection Awards, the refreshed format will see restaurants showcasing their skill and expertise with red meat at the end of the summer dining season. . . 


4,000 cattle to be culled

October 13, 2017

The Ministry of Primary Industries has ordered around 4,000 cows from seven farms to be culled to prevent the spread of Mycoplasma bovis:

The Ministry for Primary Industries is moving forward with control measures to prevent further spread of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis, with plans being developed with farmers to cull animals from the known infected farms.

“Since the start of this response in late July, we’ve carried out tens of thousands of tests of the infected, neighbouring and trace properties as well as district-wide testing in Waimate and Waitaki, and nationwide testing of bulk milk,” says MPI’s Director of Response, Geoff Gwyn.

“The only positive results for the disease have been on 7 infected properties, leading us to be cautiously optimistic that we are dealing with a localised area of infection around Oamaru,” Mr Gwyn says.

“To prevent further spread of the disease, around 4,000 cattle on 5 of the 7 infected properties will need to be culled and a programme put in place to decontaminate the properties and then re-populate the farms. The 2 other properties have had a small number of animals culled already and no cattle remain.

“This whole operation is about managing the disease while keeping our future options open. We want to minimise the risk of further spread of the disease.  Moving ahead with depopulation of the affected farms will allow them to get back to normal business as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Currently there is no need to remove animals from other farms in the Van Leeuwen group that are under restrictions. Testing of animals on those farms continues and should infection be found, they will be subject to the same measures.

In the coming weeks MPI will be working closely with the animal industry bodies, the Rural Support Trust and others to support the affected farmers.

DairyNZ, Federated Farmers and Beef+Lamb New Zealand support the actions MPI is taking, while at the same time recognising that this is a difficult time for the farmers involved. The industry bodies believe the measures are necessary to protect New Zealand cattle farms against this disease. New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world where Mycoplasma bovis is not endemic, which is why the industry groups support such significant measures to keep it that way.

“The coming weeks will present new challenges and will be tough for these affected farmers. MPI will work with those affected to make the process as straight forward as possible. I’d like to particularly thank the owners, sharemilkers and farm workers involved for their ongoing support, recognising this is a very difficult time for them,” Mr Gwyn says.

“I want to be very clear that this isn’t something that’s going to start tomorrow. This is a big logistical exercise, it needs to be thoroughly planned and co-ordinated and we will be doing it with the farmers who know their businesses best,” Mr Gwyn says.

MPI anticipates the first stage of the process – removing the animals – will start after consultation with affected parties. Most of the cattle will be sent for slaughter in accordance with standard practice.

All premises, transportation vehicles and equipment involved in culling will follow a strict decontamination and disinfection protocol to mitigate the risk of spreading the disease.

Once depopulation is completed, there will be at least a 60 day stand-down period where no cattle will be permitted on the farms. During this time the infected properties will be cleaned and disinfected.

Following this work, the aim will be to get cattle back on the farms as quickly as possible. Surveillance, monitoring and testing will remain in place for a period as a further safeguard.

The affected farmers can apply for compensation for verifiable losses relating to MPI exercising legal powers under the Biosecurity Act.

The disease carries no risk to human health but there is no cure for it. Culling is a drastic step but it has the support of affected farmers and industry groups including DairyNZ:

Dairy farmers around the country will be reassured by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) decision to cull animals on farms infected with the disease Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis), says DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle.

“Since M. bovis was first identified in July farmers have been on high alert and worried about the impact of this disease,” says Dr Mackle.

“DairyNZ is supportive of MPI’s decision to step up control measures by culling these animals. However, we also know that the decision will create heartache for the affected farmers, and our sympathies are with all those involved on-farm.”

Dr Mackle says the decision follows extensive work and testing by MPI, with significant support from DairyNZ and many other agencies. Since the disease was first identified in July over 30,000 tests have been carried out by MPI.

MPI is increasingly confident that infection has not spread outside the primary farming enterprise involved with this outbreak, or any of the other farms also under restricted place notices.

Over the coming weeks there will be continued monitoring and testing in the interests of shutting down this disease in New Zealand.

He says biosecurity is fundamental to the future success of all New Zealand’s primary sectors, dairy included. . . 

This is echoed by Beef + Lamb NZ:

. . . James Parsons, chairman of B+LNZ, said: “The decision will obviously have significant implications for the farm businesses and the rural communities affected by this disease outbreak and we wish to see all available support and compensation provided to those affected. We believe these measures are necessary to protect New Zealand cattle farms against this disease.

“New Zealand takes its biosecurity very seriously and is one of the few countries in the world where this disease isn’t endemic, so that’s why the industry is willing to support such significant measures to keep it that way.” 

Federated Farmers also supports the move:

The decision to destroy stock which have been in contact with affected animals is the only option which will ensure peace of mind for the rest of New Zealand’s dairy and beef farmers, Federated Farmers President Katie Milne says.

“We also support the continuation of strict movement controls on the remaining 13 properties that have been placed under Restricted Place Notices.

“These restrictions have significant implications for the people concerned, and all other farmers, so this action is essential to keep the option of eradication on the table.”

M. bovis infected stock can be severely affected by the disease, causing pain and suffering.

“We recognise the disease has come at a significant emotional cost to the affected farming families and their animals. The process of culling whole herds will be very stressful for the people concerned.

“But the disease does not respond to treatment and cannot be vaccinated against. Culling is the only logical option to prevent ongoing suffering of the animals.”

From a national perspective, our size, relatively low population and geographic isolation gives us the ability to manage and attempt to eradicate biosecurity incursions, when other countries cannot.

“M. bovis is found in most countries, including Australia, this is a disease that we definitely don’t want and we should seek to eradicate it, if feasible.

“We’ve remained free of many pest animals and pest plants (weeds) and diseases that have decimated other country’s livestock industries. For the sake of our livestock industries and the economy, it’s crucial we act now to ensure this remains the case,” Katie says.

Culling the cattle is necessary but that won’t make it any easier.

When some of our cows tested positive for TB a few years ago we had to cull a few dozen from the herd.

That was hard enough but a very small loss compared with the thousands to be culled on these farms.

MPI will pay compensation based on the commercial value of the stock but that won’t cover the loss of income or the costs of rebuilding the herd. Nor will it replace generations of breeding that went in to building up the herd.


%d bloggers like this: