13 Oct 2017

'Absolutely no risk' in culled cow meat

11:21 am on 13 October 2017

Thousands of cows potentially infected by mycoplasma bovis, a disease that can kill cattle, are to be slaughtered and sold for consumption as it poses no risk to humans, Federated Farmers says.

FOR WATER TAX story - Generic cow

The outbreak of the cow disease was first detected in July. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The Ministry for Primary Industries has decided to kill about 4000 cows across five infected properties - all owned by the Van Leeuwen Dairy Group.

The slaughter has been backed by the the farming sector as well as the owner, Aad Van Leeuwen.

The cow disease struck New Zealand for the first time in late July and spread to seven properties in South Canterbury and North Otago.

Two farms have already culled their stock, and the Ministry for Primary Industries said cattle on the remaining five would be now sent to the meatworks.

The disease can cause lameness, mastitis and abortions in cows, but poses no risk to people.

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne told Morning Report the cows would be processed in the normal way and sold for human consumption.

"There's absolutely no risk to anybody in that."

She said there were already robust testing systems in place at meat facilities which would catch anything that was a risk to human health.

The cull was the right thing to do, Ms Milne said, but it would take an emotional toll on farmers and support would be provided.

"We are an island nation, we are pretty lucky that we have these opportunities, if we do get an incursion of some sort ... to eradicate where we can."

Geoff Gwyn from the Ministry for Primary Industries said he was quietly confident this should put an end to the outbreak.

"We're continuing to test and we will continue to keep the restricted place notices on the other farms within that group until such a time we are satisfied that they are clear of the disease.

"This may not be the end of it but this is the proportional response to what we know at this time."

Waimate mayor Craig Rowley said there was relief in the community.

The ministry would not say how long it would take to slaughter the 4000 cows.

It said all the farms, trucks and equipment involved in the cull would be decontaminated and affected farmers compensated.

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