Cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis confirmed in Waikato

The cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis has been confirmed in the Waikato region, National MP Tim van de Molen has confirmed. 

"It is important for farmers across the Waikato region to be aware that it has reached our community, so they need to put precautions in place," Mr van de Molen said in a statement on Monday. 

"I'd encourage them to contact MPI (Ministry for Primary Industries) immediately for guidance on procedures and protocols."

The minister said the affected farmer is "frustrated with what he feels is a lack of communication and action from MPI."

Mr van de Molen criticised Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor for not offering enough guidance to farmers whose cattle have been affected by the disease. 

"I acknowledge that this is a difficult and challenging time for all involved, but the Government and MPI needs to maintain open communication with affected stakeholders and this is currently not happening," Mr van de Molen said. 

The Government has admitted eradicating the cattle disease is no longer a short-term goal. Mr O'Connor told Newshub Nation on Saturday that a "hell of a lot" of cows have now been affected by the outbreak. 

A "hell of a lot" of cows have now been affected by the outbreak, says Damien O'Connor.
A "hell of a lot" of cows have now been affected by the outbreak, says Damien O'Connor. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

As of Saturday, the disease had been confirmed on 38 farms across Southland, Otago, Canterbury, Hawkes' Bay and Manawatu - and now Waikato has been added to the list. 

Mycoplasma bovis does not infect humans and is not a food safety risk. However, it is devastating for livestock; often causing mastitis, pneumonia, arthritis and late-term abortions in cattle.

The disease was detected last Wednesday on a mixed sheep and beef farm in north Canterbury - the first confirmed case in the region. 

"The scope of the infection is a lot wider than the original modelling that we had," Mr O'Connor said. 

"At the moment, we're halfway through the process of culling 22,000 [cows], and there's up to 60,000 potentially in those affected properties already identified."

Mr O'Connor said 70 percent of farmers were not tracing cattle movements properly through the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system. Some farmers have also been trading cows for goods and services on a black market making it even harder to know where infected cows may have ended up.

"The signals that have gone to them from the Government when they introduced NAIT and then never enforced it have been pretty soft," Mr O'Connor admitted. 

"And the importance of it hasn't been highlighted to the farmers from their leaders."

Mr van de Molen said the Government's "lack of communication" has left farmers feeling "unsupported and fearful of the future". 

He said MPI will be holding a public information meeting in the near future, and encouraged people to attend.

"Use this opportunity to find out how to respond to the incursion, and how to apply for compensation if necessary," Mr van de Molen said.