Government announces "phased eradication" of M. bovis by Thomas Coughlan

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The New Zealand government is taking drastic measures to try and end a bacterial disease that is plaguing the nation's cattle.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, described as "difficult" the decision to implement this plan, which aims to curb a disease that affects farm animals but which could also be extended to wild animals.

The authorities plan to implement most of the plan over the next two years, with 68% of the cost being borne by the New Zealand government and 32% by DairyNZ and Beef&Lamb New Zealand.

The decision was taken collectively by Government and farming sector bodies after months of intense modelling and analysis to understand the likely impacts of the disease, the potential spread and the costs and benefits of eradication versus other actions.

"Speaking with affected farmers in recent weeks, it is obvious that this has taken a toll, but standing back and allowing the disease to spread would simply create more anxiety for all farmers", she added.

Murray Jagger who operates a 650-dairy cow and 250 dairy/beef enterprise at Whangarei Heads says, "the spread of M bovis is bordering on a national disaster and it is really important to the industry this option is pursued". It has 6.6m dairy cows.

"We all agree that while there remains a chance to get rid of this disease, we should take it", he said.

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

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"And we have to support them as neighbours, community members, farmers, friends". New Zealand exports milk in a large scale.

According to the Ministry for Primary Industries, so far some 26,000 cows have been culled and it estimates another 126,000 cattle will need to be slaughtered as phased eradication will involve killing all cattle on all infected properties along with cattle on most restricted properties.

The Government today said it had reached an agreement with farming sector leaders to attempt to eradicate the disease, which is not harmful to humans.

Cabinet's decision has the support of Federated Farmers and the NZ Veterinary Association, although the former is well aware of the emotional and psychological effect on farmers.

At this time (28 May 2018), the disease is still not widespread (37 infected farms and some 260 suspect farms out of 20,000) and there is just one strain of the disease here.

- An improved compensation claim process. That figure is comprised of $16 million in lost production and $870 million as the cost of response.

Ms Ardern said they had the option of phased eradication, long term management or doing nothing.