Yesterday New Zealand farmers found out the likely cost of a major biosecurity menace that has been found
The Mycoplasma Bovis crisis is at a critical level and the Government has made what looks like a gutsy call. Eradication of M. Bovis is the only solution and that it is going to cost around N.Z.$886 million to deal with over the time that the attempt to remove it from New Zealand is in progress.
Farmers, especially those in dairying have not always been popular in New Zealand. Whilst being a significant part of the economy and contributing over N.Z.$15 billion to it per annum in more recent years, there has been a significant environment cost. The cost has not just been a significant degradation of fresh water resources, but also a significant contribution to New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas output.
But if we put the negative aspects aside for a moment, there is no easy way to look at this. 160,000 cattle are going to be slaughtered in the near future, which whilst representing only 1.4% of the national herd, is going to devastate some farmers and their livelihoods. There are some who may have been farming their whole lives who will now find all of that hard work being slaughtered. A few may have to walk from their properties.
Federated Farmers New Zealand finds itself in rare agreement with the Labour Government about the direction that this crisis is going. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern found herself in agreement with F.F.N.Z. President Katie Milne and Dairy New Zealand boss Jim van der Poel who agreed that the one chance to clear M. Bovis from New Zealand is now and that eradication is the solution. All acknowledged the toll that this would place on farmers.
No one wants to see such a huge loss of animal life. It reminds me of the huge medieval response Britain made when Mad Cow Disease broke out there in 2001. That effectively crippled the entire dairy industry in Britain and costing 226 human lives as well as the lives of millions of animals. However the potential cost to New Zealand if M. Bovis is not eradicated is huge. It would have a lasting negative impact on New Zealand farming on the whole and on our reputation overseas, which is not something New Zealand can afford.
In the coming days, weeks and months, thousands of cattle are going to die. But if nothing done in those coming days, weeks and months, the cost is going to be much worse.