Published: Wed, May 30, 2018
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

New Zealand to kill 150 000 cows to end bacterial disease

New Zealand to kill 150 000 cows to end bacterial disease

The government is announcing its decision about whether to eradicate or contain the cattle disease, Mycoplasma bovis. After failing to detect the presence of the disease for two years before it was discovered last year on a South Canterbury farm, it admits its original handling of the issue was not satisfactory.

"Today's decision to eradicate 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", Ardern said in a statement.

"This is a tough time, and the pain and anguish [affected farmers] are going to go through is really ugly", said Katie Milne, the organisation's president.

Mycoplasma Bovis has been found on about 40 farms so far but the government believes 192 properties will eventually be involved in the cull.

Eradication has meant the culling of thousands of cows, especially in the dairy industry. The country is the world's largest exporter of milk and dairy products.

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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Mycoplasma bovis has been detected on more than three dozen farms since it was first detected in New Zealand past year, leading to the slaughter of about 26,000 cattle.

The full cost of phased eradication over 10 years is projected to be $886 million, with $16 million of that being a loss of production and $870 being the cost of the response.

Federated Farmers National President Katie Milne said the process represents a "rough time" for the farmers, adding that they "have to support them as neighbours, community members, farmers, friends". "This is a necessary, unfortunate part of not having a test that clearly identifies the individual animals yet".

If all goes as hoped with the slaughter, New Zealand would be the first country to have registered an infection and successfully remove Mycoplasma bovis from its herds.

An investigation launched by the country's Ministry of Primary Industries to determine how the bacteria wound up in the country is still ongoing.

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