6 Jun 2018

Cheviot farmer admits being first in area with M bovis

11:30 am on 6 June 2018

A long-time Cheviot farmer has outed himself as having the first farm in the area to test positive for Mycoplasma bovis.

Hundreds of farmers, stock sellers and local leaders packed a Cheviot pub to hear how MPI is handling the disease.

Hundreds of farmers, stock sellers and local leaders packed a Cheviot pub to hear how MPI is handling the disease. Photo: RNZ / Logan Church

The admission came in the middle of a meeting in Cheviot last night, where hundreds of farmers, stock sellers and local leaders packed a local pub to hear how the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is handling the disease.

It was the first of a series of meetings by MPI since the government decided to attempt to eradicate the disease.

Richard Maxwell and his wife Jane have been farming in Cheviot since 1983, but in February testing began that resulted in their farm being the first in the area identified as being infected with Mycoplasma bovis.

Mr Maxwell told the meeting while they were planning to retire, this was not how they had hoped to finish their farming career.

"We didn't really want to be reading up on [Mycoplasma bovis], we wanted to be reading up on boating magazines - we've got a yacht we are hoping to sail around the Pacific," he said.

"We are just trying to focus on getting the farm ready for the two neighbours who have bought it and then get on with our lives."

Figures from MPI show the Mycoplasma bovis has been found on 45 farms in total, and 35 are currently infected. Ten are no longer considered infected because animals have been culled and the property has been cleaned and disinfected. About 300 more are under lockdown.

Questions and criticism came thick and fast from farmers last night, many frustrated with how MPI was handling the crisis.

One farmer, who did not want to be named, said he thought MPI was taking far too long to put in effective controls to stop the spread of the disease.

"Pretty slack," he said.

"As soon as [the disease] came out they should have had a lock down [everywhere], found out where the infected herds were and then go from there."

Other farmers also raised concerns about the Privacy Act, which they said prevented MPI telling those surrounding an infected farm their neighbour had the disease.

Culverden dairy farmer, Allen Davie-Martin, said the meeting helped give the community confidence the disease could be overcome.

"People were concerned that the horse had bolted," he said.

Local farm owner, Bryden Black, said North Canterbury farmers had taken a battering in recent years, and the community needed to band together if it wanted to beat Mycoplasma bovis.

"We've had the worse drought for 80 years and it lasted about two-and-a-half years, coupled to that, the icing on the cake was the Kaikōura earthquake ... which was pretty devastating," he said.

"When we are being asked to be resilient when Mycoplasma bovis is hitting us, it is a hard one to hear, but we do need to be resilient."

MPI head of biosecurity Roger Smith said the ministry was doing as much as possible to support the farming community.

But he said there was going to have to be big changes in the sector.

"On farm biosecurity needs to change, systems need to change, how we run our traceability needs to change," Mr Smith said.

"We need the farming community to identify how they can do that."

Another meeting is planned in Waikato on Friday.

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