Dairy Report: D-day looms for the M Bovis decision as farmers get ready for cow moving day

By Guy Trafford

So, finally on Monday the government will announce the result of its extremely prolonged and overdue deliberations of what the future is for farmers with mycoplasma bovis.

Given the extent the disease has spread and the late hour of this decision in relation to dairy moving day for cows, June 1st, the decision almost should be predictable, almost, though nothing is ever guaranteed.

In the areas where the disease is most prevalent, Southland and Canterbury farmers are committed to moving cows to wintering blocks and the option of keeping cows on their existing habitats i.e. the milking platforms will involve some major logistics in getting suitable feed to them.

An average Canterbury dairy farm carries approximately 800 cows requiring about 14 kgs of dry matter of suitable feed per day (for those not familiar with DM that is about 50 kgs of wet grass).

The wintering period is say 70 days so multiply all of that and one farm requires an additional 784 tonnes of feed or 31 truck and trailer loads, and I repeat that is just for one farm.

So far 40 are confirmed 300 are under suspicion and a further 1700 in the wings, so far.

Also remember if the feed is available in the volumes required then a payment of about 23 cents per kg dm is required from some-one to purchase it.  

In addition the dairy farmer is likely to have a contract with the wintering land owner worth about $23 per week per cow for 8 – 10 weeks, who is going to reimburse this?

In the meantime keeping the cows on the home block is going to destroy much of the pasture normally being built up ready for the cows to come home in the early spring to calve and then milk on.

And the consequences go on. As Keith Woodford has pointed out, keeping cows at ‘home’ is going to add to the pressure on the animals and likely result in infected but not clinical animals breaking out in the disease due to the additional stress.

Dairy farming is an incredible money go around and this is what keeps many rural communities viable, so while MPI and Government have been procrastinating they have made the final decision almost inevitable.

The cows have to be allowed to move.

The question to decide will be under what restrictions will this take place and again, given the late hour, MPI’s options will be limited here also.

So, with this going on in the background the final payout forecast released by Fonterra on Wednesday at $6.75 and the very bullish predicted price for next season of $7.00 per MS is going to a welcome respite from the onslaught of negative news and publicity the dairy industry has been operating under.  

Dairy prices

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19 Comments

I would not trust the Good Intentions Paving Company (2017) Limited to come up with anything sensible, sorry. Gypsy day is likely to be a fustercluck of bovine proportions if the GIPC decide on movement restrictions

Plus, as a cynical old budgeteer myself, the reimbursements due to farmers and others whichever way the decision goes, are highly likely to be neatly spread across the two FY's (i.e. some paid July/August, not May/June) so that Departmental budgets need not take the entire hit in one or other FY.

This cheerfully disregards the fact that cashflows are already most probably well negative now in the affected farms and wider areas, but Gubmint is deaf to such mundane concerns as business viability. I do hope that banks will be accommodating, but there are limits....

It's not gonna do much for the 'Gubmint Hates Farmers' meme....

I'm hoping for a different strategy in each island and a temporary ban on movement of cattle (and colostrum, etc.) between islands. I suspect eradication in the near term is a realistic/affordable possibility in the North Island but not necessarily in the South.

If humans allowed our own excrement to flow over public roads so that transport could spread potential diseases to wherever such vehicles can reach. Then there surely would be an enormous outcry. Yet many farms spread bovine faeces and urine on public roads from crossing cattle races as a daily exercise. This surely must be an enormous bio security risk?

They already do in most every stormwater outlet in major cities: most TLA's have consents to discharge raw sewage into waterways when capacity in sewer mains is exceeded.

Mote, meet Beam.

Not to mention allowing millions of visitors each year to NZ bringing who knows what diseases from their homelands.

In the current scenario would it be more prudent to halt all cattle movement? Or has the horse bolted and we all just blame the Government as usual?

It would, but lots of cows are going out to winter grazing farms and there isn't enough feed available for them to stay at home instead.

Farmers are also shifting farms and often take their herds with them. It's very short notice to try and come up with another plan to avoid having to shift the cattle.

It's going to be about the calves. The Bull beef industry is totally dependent on male calves from the dairy industry, you can close the system in a dairy unit but not with a calf rearer. They buy by weight from multiple sellers, mix them up and feed then milk, it's these calves that then get sold to multiple fatteners where the risk of rapid spread is.
The problem is that millions of these dairy calves end up being fattened for two years, its the most profitable part of many farms, often getting returns as good as dairy. Take that path away and many many ex sheep and beef farmers are going to the wall, along with workers in the freezing industry, trucking and so on.
The only way to control the spread is to stop the calf rearers and kill the calves, thats going to create havoc, I mean chaos in capitals.

I keep coming back to this thought as well and the next step. From the few articles I've seen there is a much higher than normal mortality rate

http://www.mbovis.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/M-Bovis-calves.pdf

Quoting overseas examples "On the individual farm affected with M bovis–associated
calf disease, losses resulting from treatment costs, death, and culling can be substantial,
and economically devastating outbreaks with very high morbidity rates and
death losses of up to 30% have been observed."

so with the same amount of grass that needs to be eaten and less beef animals available, what happens to weaner calf prices? Then the flow on effect, finishers etc as everyone needs their cut.

Does it get to the stage where you'd be throwing out the baby with the bathwater? Onenews has been visiting one of the farms where the cattle are being culled, and there are paddocks full of perfectly healthy looking dairy cows and dairy beef calves.

I see there are couple of petitions I've been asked to sign, started by farmers trying to stop a needless cow kill.

.Gypsy day is the day some sharemilkers move to a new farm, generally a bigger one as their equity(cowherds) increases. in milk cows are generally not moved to a wintering block. It is the young replacement herds that go to other blocks, and come back in spring. They would have been on these other blocks since been weaned last year , or the year before. The number of cows that have to move on gypsy day is relatively small . The number that will move at the start of spring will be as big or bigger.

The worries over 'gypsy day' are over egged. Quite a joke really.
When one takes into consideration the many many beef cattle movements all over nz on any given day. Um... Rangiuru, Frankton, Fielding, TeKuiti, Stortford Lodge saleyards to name just a few. Thousands go through these saleyards weekly. On their way to new farms or meat works. But mostly new farms. New herd mates. Mbovis will have gone wild. Its too blardy late.

The media have launched into gypsy day like its one day of the year cattle move. Lololol. What bullshit by the uninformed.

Nose to nose in pens as they are trucked then auctioned then trucked again. Shit for africa. Monday to friday all over nz. If the government goes for eradication and a cull. Its not about mbovis anymore.

Belle, your note about the widespread iggorince chimes with what I meant in my comment to the KW article. IMHO it's gone well beyond MPI mismanagement, it's festered for long enough to let the ancient tribalisms rear their ugly heads.

Again.

So we see a huge number of urban common taters signalling their supposed virtue by lambasting farmers for everything from subverting NAIT to keeping coos too close together (winter barns, robot milking set-ups etc etc). While cheerfully ignoring their cities propensity to dump raw sewage into the nearest creek whenever it rains heavily and the century-old sewers get overloaded. Again.

The polarisation that occurs with social media then reinforces the stereotypes on each side, positions harden, and poll-driven Gubmints then do what they always do - the thing that they judge most expedient in collecting new votes and retaining existing ones. We see this exact transfer of loyalties in the latest poll: Labour and National have both collected swing votes from the minor parties.

None of this, like the coo culls, is a pretty sight. But absent science-based judgement; decent, fast MB tests; and real leadership (defined as sacrificing short-term electoral considerations for the good of the entire nation), I do not hold out much hope for even a halfway satisfactory outcome.

And as for compensation - no-one being worse off than they would otherwise have been, that's already a sad joke. The ability of Gubmints to understand, let alone act on then compensate for, loss-of-business and loss-of goodwill claims, is extremely low. The fate of Central Christchurch businesses after the 2010 and later earthquake sequence is the proof of that.

But I do hope that events prove me wrong.

I have been watching a few facebook sites Waymad. The dairy farmers seem split. A lot want to get it gone by a cull. But a good deal of dairy farmers also dont understand the beef farming model in NZ. The rate at which we move stock around that is sourced from dairy farmers ie friesian x hereford or angus heifers and steers plus friesian bulls, is way and beyond the movement of straight dairy stock. And then what about sheep transferring it on their muddy shitty feet as they move from sheep and beef farms onto trucks, off to stock yards and back onto trucks to a new farm. The sheer ignorance of the masses is understandable but really those that know sfa need to stfu. I am hoping for an adult to be in charge of this. But doubt it.