Government likely to try eradicating Mycoplasma bovis

Farmers around the country will learn on Monday whether officials will try to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis or whether they will try to contain it.

Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity Damien O'Connor told The AM Show New Zealand is likely to take on the difficult task of phased eradication.

"I don't think there's any other country that relies on its livestock farming for its export earnings.

"If we can eradicate it, it will reduce the cost of farming and improve the way we farm."

He said this means more cows will be killed - up to 60,000 or more.

"There are about 300 farmers potentially affected. There are 20,000 farmers around the country and we're looking after the long-term interest of them and those that come after them.

Eradication could take 10 years, and cost around $500 million - and containment is equally pricey. Tie in the impact to the economy, and we're potentially facing a $1 billion hit.

No other country has successfully eradicated the disease.

"We need farmers to commit to this because we can't do it on our own," Mr O'Connor said.

National leader Simon Bridges says it'll be tough.

"It's a lot of cows. But if it's 70,000 cows out of 5.5 million or thereabouts, then if they can reasonably have a go at it, they should."

Federated Farmers National Dairy Chairman Chris Lewis says phased eradication is risky.

"The first thing they need to do is contain it, then have a good plan announced today for the farmers with clear goal lines for where we need to head.

"At the end of the day it's got to be a team effort if we're going to beat this."

He says if the decision for phased eradication is made, it's going to be an emotional time.

"One of the things I've seen in the last couple of weeks is how much farmers care for their cows. You've seen grown men shed a few tears live on TV, you've seen our distress. It won't be easy putting your life's work on a truck to the works."

Mycoplasma bovis does not infect humans and it's not a food safety risk.

It spreads fast within herds through cow-to-cow contact, and if the bacteria sheds from the cow it can survive in optimum conditions for 50 days. Disinfection kills it.

The disease came into the country through imported cattle semen, second-hand equipment or vet medicine.

The final decision on long term containment or phased eradication is to be made later today.