25 Aug 2017

Tension rises over cattle disease

9:22 pm on 25 August 2017

A North Otago farmer is upset with the management of the cattle disease outbreak saying overnight his neighbour moved potentially infected bulls next to his cows.

Julian Price said a neighbour who knew there was a high chance that his farm was infected, moved cattle from one boundary to another anyway.

Julian Price said a neighbour called him to say potentially infected bulls were over the fence from his heifers. Photo: Supplied

Sheep and beef farmer Julian Price said the neighbour, who he didn't want to name, knew that there was a high chance his farm was infected, but moved cattle from one boundary to another anyway.

The disease, mycoplasma bovis, is spread through nose to nose contact, which animals can do through a fence.

Mr Price said the neighbour's mob of bulls were grazing next to the third infected property for some time, and the Ministry for Primary industries was testing the farm on Monday.

He said the ministry and some farmers were failing to manage the outbreak.

"My concern is that people aren't necessarily taking the situation as seriously as they should and animals are ending up moved within the boundaries of a potentially infected farm.

"That person has known for 14 days that that mob was potentially infected, but they haven't taken steps to avoid putting that risk onto their neighbours ... I find that really upsetting."

A different neighbour rang Mr Price this morning to warn him that potentially infected bulls were over the fence from his heifers.

"My hands have almost stopped shaking ... why on earth would you go and endanger someone else's animals when you know that your own ones are under suspicion, it just defies belief."

He wants MPI to restrict the movement of animals within neighbouring properties so that other people aren't in danger.

"I can look out the window and see an example of exactly what shouldn't be done ... they [MPI] need to toughen up, this isn't working."

Mr Price said the ministry was expecting people to act honourably, but that clearly wasn't happening.

Confidence in control system

The ministry's response controller, Stu Rawnsley, is confident the system is working.

"For the properties neighbouring the infected farms, the only restrictions that are in place are an advisory for them to manage their boundary with the infected farm and ensure there is no cattle contact across fences."

Mr Rawnsley said the owner of the third infected farm had communicated with his neighbours about the disease.

He said the ministry won't be putting stricter rules in place for stock movements on neighbouring farms.

"There is a certain level of responsibility on the farmer in the infected place, or restricted place, to manage that and to ensure they have a close relationship with their neighbours.

"We are auditing most of the processes that are happening on farms, that includes anything that is coming onto or leaving the properties."

He said the 14 stock movements from this farm were all within the South Canterbury and North Otago regions.

The ministry said the stock movements from the Van Leeuwen Dairy Group, before the disease was found, were nationwide.

In an earlier story, MPI said in the past six months there had been less than 20 movements of stock off farm in that group of farms.

MPI said it has traced every one of those stock movements from the Van Leeuwen Dairy Group, tested the high risk farms, and was confident that the disease was not in the North Island.

If people are worried or need information they can call MPI on 0800 00 83 33.

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