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.