New Zealand to spend $600 million to eradicate cattle disease

Alicia Farmer
May 30, 2018

Despite initially being contained to farms in the South Island, the disease has continued to spread and reached the North Island earlier this year.

The disease causes udder infections, pneumonia and arthritis, but does not affect milk and meat for human consumption.

"This is a tough call - no one ever wants to see mass culls".

Mycoplasma Bovis has been found on about 40 farms so far but the government believes 192 properties will eventually be involved in the cull. "We have a real chance of eradication to protect our more than 20,000 dairy and beef farms, but only if we act now".

These are indeed large figures but they should be placed against the $8 billion economic contribution of the dairy industry, $2 billion from the beef industry, the country's reputation as a food producer and, perhaps most importantly, animal and farmer welfare.

About 24,000 cows have already been killed in recent months and at least 128,000 more will have to be culled, most over the next year or two.

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The plan is set to cost $886 million, and will take place over the next ten years.

According to reports, the officials in New Zealand have the right to kill the cows and enter any farm if they doubt that the farm might be affected.

"It is in the national interest of our country to be free of Mycoplasma bovis", Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a press briefing in Wellington. "This is a necessary, unfortunate part of not having a test that clearly identifies the individual animals yet".

"Today's decision to eradicate the disease is driven by the government's desire to protect the national herd from the disease and protect the base of our economy - the farming sector", she said.

"He will provide strategic science advice across MPI and his first task will be to head up a new Mycoplasma bovis Science Strategic Advisory Group". It will only be clear by the end of year if the culling of the cows is working.

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