24 Aug 2017

Cow disease outbreak: 'There was a lot of transfer of stock'

5:30 pm on 24 August 2017

A new cow disease outbreak near Oamaru was unsurprising, with stock regularly moved from infected farms before the disease was discovered, say local farmers.

North Otago dairy farming around the infected farm.

Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

A third South Island farm is in lockdown, with blood tests showing some animals are infected with the mycoplasma bovis disease.

It is the first case to be found outside two farms owned by the Van Leeuwen Group, where the disease has been contained up to this point.

The ministry is now contacting 14 farmers who may have received cattle from the latest farm to be found to have infected animals.

However, some farmers have said the Ministry for Primary Industries is being too secretive about details of the outbreak.

North Otago Federated Farmers spokesperson Lyndon Strang told Nine to Noon that he was not surprised the disease had spread, as cattle were regularly moved from the Van Leeuwen farms before the disease was discovered.

"It wasn't totally unexpected that they would find another animal ... there has been a lot of transfer of stock in the last six months before the notices were put in place," he said.

Mr Strang said the affected farmers would be having a tough time.

"It's not a good feeling to have your stock with this disease, especially when it gets clinical.

"It's a hard one to manage."

Mr Strang said farmers needed to ensure they maintained good practices to prevent the disease from spreading further.

"They've got to make sure people coming on and off their farm are decontaminated, and if they can avoid transferring animals onto their farm from an unknown source, I think they should do that as well," he said.

'People need the information'

Farmers in the region have called for more information, saying the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has been too secretive.

The ministry said yesterday the new property was in the Oamaru area and had direct contact with one of the infected Van Leeuwen farms before the outbreak happened. But it has refused to name the infected farm for privacy reasons.

North Otago dairy farming around the infected farm.

Farmers are being told to maintain good practices to prevent the disease from spreading further. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Kevin Malcolm - who rears calves in South Canterbury - said he knew the farmer of the third property affected.

"I will be talking to him today as a friend and a community member, and just see how we can help."

Mr Malcolm said the ministry should step up and stop being secretive.

"I think this farmer needs the community around him and needs to be protected socially, with support and the likes from the community.

"Let's not have innuendo and stuff floating around.

"How should we be reacting around that property? People need the information. If you're going to hide things under a cloak of secrecy - it's just nutty really."

MPI following dozens of leads

MPI spokesperson Stu Rawnsley said MPI was sticking with its decision not to name the farm.

Mr Rawnsley said one of the main methods of tracking down the movement of the disease was from intelligence gathered from the Van Leeuwen dairy farm.

"We are following over 100 leads at the moment, many of which have been dead ends. One of those leads led to this particular farm and we have a range of results from this particular property.

"Our lead was following stock that was moved," he said.

Mr Rawnsley said there was a low risk of the disease being transferred via machinery and vehicles but biosecurity measures were in place.

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