30 Aug 2017

Cow disease spread: 'We've really just got to sit tight'

5:21 pm on 30 August 2017

A North Canterbury farmer worried about the spread of cattle disease says the sector has to sit tight and wait to gauge the extent of infection.

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The disease has spread to six farms. Photo: 123rf.com

The number of cases of the disease, mycoplasma bovis, has doubled and for now sits at six.

Four farms are owned by the Van Leeuwen Dairy Group in South Canterbury, one infected farm is in North Otago, and the sixth farm is a lifestyle block in Rangiora north of Christchurch.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has placed restriction notices on the six infected farms. Surrounding farms in North Otago and Canterbury are under no obligation to control stock movement or set biosecurity measures.

Environment Canterbury Councillor Claire McKay owns a dairy farm near Rangiora and said she was concerned about the long term effects of the disease on the beef and dairy sectors.

She said when the family heard it had spread, they stepped into action and were now looking at how to manage movements on and off their property, especially while selling calves.

"When a person comes in to get their calves they've got a boot disinfection wash there and they don't actually enter the calf pens, we'll do that."

The farm relies on bringing in 'service bulls' for mating dairy cows, which happens in six weeks.

Ms McKay said they were stopping any bulls or animals coming on to the farm.

"If we didn't buy in bulls for the mating period and we had to do 12 weeks of [artificial insemination] that definitely would make a difference to the labour involved and the time around the mating period ... the investment in time would definitely be higher.

"There will be some decisions to be made ... hopefully MPI will have some more information around how far this has spread and if it can be contained."

She said one option was for the bulls to be thoroughly tested before they were allowed on the farm.

Until then it was a waiting game for the farming sector.

"We've really just got to sit tight ... and let MPI do their testing, see what the results are and move forward from that."

Aad Van Leeuwen was not available for interview, but said it was still a mystery how the disease got into New Zealand.

Ministry for Primary Industries response co-ordinator David Yard said the three recently infected properties were linked to existing infected farms and the spread was an entirely expected pattern at this stage of the response.

"There's almost no doubt that these are links to movements of animals from farm to farm.

"We fully expect to find more infected properties as we continue our tracing and testing programme."

A community meeting has been scheduled for Thursday in Weston, near Oamaru, in the township hall from 6.30pm to 7pm.

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