7 Sep 2017

Cattle disease: Calves from infected farm slaughtered

2:23 pm on 7 September 2017

The Ministry for Primary Industries has killed 10 calves on a North Canterbury farm infected with the mycoplasma bovis disease.

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Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

The calves were from a lifestyle property near Rangiora, and were the sixth case of the disease and the only one outside of South Canterbury and North Otago.

The ministry bought all 10 calves from the property, so it could kill and autopsy the animals to find out more about the disease.

Victoria Barrell, the ministry's vet in Oamaru, said it was the farmers decision to sell the infected calves to the Ministry.

"We offered to purchase the 10 calves for research purposes. This presented a unique opportunity for us to better understand and profile the disease process in a group of animals that have been traced from birth.

"Coincidentally, by acquiring and euthanizing these animals, we were able to remove the risk of disease spread in that area of the country."

MPI veterinarians have collected a number of samples from the calves and were expecting results soon.

Ms Barrell said the ministry and farmer worked out what the calves were worth.

"There was no formal compensation, MPI offered to purchase the calves for research purposes."

She said the farmer could make a compensation claim under the Biosecurity Act and the ministry has given them advice on this.

The Rangiora property is still in lock down and MPI said it will be a minimum of 60 days before the farm can be grazed again.

MPI 'hopeful' risk gone from North Canterbury

The ministry was hopeful the risk is now over in that region, Ms Barrell said.

"This property was a lifestyle block with just one immediate boundary neighbour and cattle from that property have now been tested.

"The trail effectively ends here."

Cows on the farm infected with mycoplasma bovis.

Cows on the farm infected with mycoplasma bovis. Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

Ms Barrell said there was a low risk of 'over the fence' contact and to date all positive tests were from stock movements of infected animals.

She said buying the calves and killing them for research was a unique situation.

"MPI has not ordered the culling of any cattle ... some cattle have been euthanised on animal welfare grounds.

"We are looking at collecting samples from adult animals that are going through for slaughter."

Problems with calf rearers

Beef and Lamb NZ said the disease outbreak had resulted in some farmers struggling to sell calves because other farmers were worried about the disease spreading.

Spokesperson Chris Houston said farmers have told them about some flow-on effects from the disease outbreak.

"We're aware of a number of examples of farmers who've spoken to us where there's been problems with contracts.

"The people who were going to purchase their animals are not willing to do so ... that's not widespread but we have heard that."

Mr Houston said Beef and Lamb was taking the situation seriously and farmers could be confident buying calves from any farm that was not infected.

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Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

"The situation, in terms of the level of concern out there, should lessen.

"The risks of this disease are very low, in that it is contained. In addition to that, we have the fact that it's not a particularly bad disease compared to many others."

He said farmers should read the advice on the Beef and Lamb New Zealand and MPI websites, and make sure their NAIT records are complete and accurate.

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