The Government will attempt to eradicate the Mycoplasma bovis cattle disease and will foot the bill for almost 70% of $900 million the process is expected to cost.
But the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) still does not know where the disease came from.
In a media conference at Federated Farmers headquarters in Wellington, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it an “ambitious plan.”
She says the choice to eradicate M Bovis was to “protect the national herd and the long-term productivity of the farming sector.”
No country which that has dealt with the disease – which is everywhere but Norway – has ever successfully eradicated it.
But, as the disease has been identified early, the likelihood of being able to eradicate it is increased.
Although officials think there is “a very good shot” at full eradication, ridding the country of M bovis is not a 100% guarantee.
Ardern says New Zealand has “one shot” at eradicating the disease from the country.
The phased eradication will take one to two years, MPI officials say.
Estimates put the number of cattle that will need to be culled at almost 130,000 – that’s on top of the 26,000 that have been culled so far.
A large number of those won’t be infected, but the cull must occur to limit the spread.
The decision was made collectively by the Government and the farming sector after months of analysis to best understand the impact.
“Today’s decision to eradication 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 says.
Speaking with the affected farmers in recent week, she says it’s obvious the disease has taken a toll.
MPI does not expect any ramifications on trade as a result of today’s decision.
Ardern says the alternative to eradication is to risk the spread of M bovis across the national herd.
She has sought the advice of overseas experts from countries such as Ireland – where the disease has been present for decades.
She says the experts told her that, as M bovis had been detected early, there was a chance of eradication,
Minister of Biosecurity Damien O’Conner says all parties agreed if there was a chance to get rid of the disease, it should be taken.
“It’s the only chance we’ll get.”
He called it a “wake up call” to New Zealand and said he will be working to upgrade biosecurity laws to make sure this can’t happen again.
The cost of the phased eradication is expected to be $886 million over the next decade.
The Government will stump up 68% of that cost, with DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb NZ meeting the other 32%.
Ardern says the Budget was specifically designed so these sorts of fiscal hits could be absorbed. But it is unclear where exactly the Government’s part of the payment will come from.
The alternative option, long-term management, was projected to cost $1.2 billion.
Almost $700 million of which would have been through lost production and $520 million would have gone towards the cost of response.
Ardern says to not act at all would have likely cost the industry $1.3 billion in lost production over the next decade.
The phased eradication will involve:
- Culling all cattle on all infected properties, along with cattle on most restricted properties.
- All infected farms found in future will also be depopulated
- Following depopulation, farms are disinfected and will lie fallow for 60 days after which they can be restocked.
- Intensive active surveillance, including testing and tracing, will continue to detect infected herds
- There will be some flexibility for farmers in the timing of culling to offset production losses.
- An improved compensation claim process – MPI says a substantial part of a farmer’s claim for culled cows should now take 4-10 days, with a full verified claim taking 2-3 weeks.