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‘Devastated’ by disease

East Coast Rural Support Trust clinical psychologist Sarah Donaldson speaking at Wednesday night’s M. bovis public meeting in Masterton. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

Bideford couple reveal M. bovis found on property

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A young couple operating a farm in Bideford were devasted that the Mycoplasma bovis disease was found on their property.

The young couple, Bryce and Julie Stevenson, who were not at the public meeting in Masterton on Wednesday night, were represented by East Coast Rural Support Trust clinical psychologist Sarah Donaldson who said they wanted to let the region’s farmers know where the infected farm was.

The meeting, organised by Wairarapa Federated Farmers president William Beetham, drew hundreds of farmers from across the region keen for more information on the disease and measures to control it.

Industry representatives spoke about the government decision to eradicate the disease, the Ministry of Primary Industries processes, compensation and farmer support.

Last Thursday, MPI announced a sheep and beef farm near Masterton had been confirmed infected and was found through tracing of animals.

Mrs Donaldson had come from a neighbour’s meeting held by the couple.

The Stevensons were “pretty devastated” about the infection, she said.

The couple had looked into buying calves from the South Island and had checked if there were any links to an infected property, she said.

“Despite that, that was the case. They have accepted it and are getting on with the process,” Mrs Donaldson said.

The Stevensons wanted to thank everyone who had been supportive through this terrible time, she said.

Mrs Donaldson extended the trust’s help to those at the meeting.

“In the unlikely event that you are in the testing process, please connect with us – we don’t want people out there feeling isolated,” she said.

Memorial Stadium was filled with hundreds of people for Wednesday night’s meeting. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

MPI incident controller David Yard said if a farmer in Wairarapa had not received a phone call from MPI, then they were unlikely to be an infected property.

Once a farm was infected, MPI would talk to the farmer to identify where the stock had come from and gone to.

“If you haven’t received a phone call we are pretty confident you haven’t received any animal from an infected farm,” he said.

The reason MPI did not name and identify the infected property was simply because of the Privacy Act.

Mr Yard added that, in the early stages, there had been some “appalling” reactions from the farming community once a farmer was identified.

Wairarapa has one infected farm, and one farm on a Notice of Direction.

Of the 36 infected farms across the country, 20 are dairy properties, 14 beef properties and two lifestyle blocks.

To say it was a difficult disease to eradicate was an “understatement”, he said.

“It’s very difficult to test – cows can be silent spreaders and can be infected without showing symptoms.”

Mr Yard said many farmers from those 36 properties did not know that their cattle were infected, and tracing had identified them.

Beef+Lamb general manager of advocacy and policy David Harrison spoke about phased eradication and how the decision was made.

There were four options – rapid eradication, phased eradication, long-term management or to walk away, he said.

It was recognised that the phased eradication decision would have both economic and social impacts on farmers, he said.

”Eradication is a one-chance thing, once it’s off the table it’s off forever.”

Phased eradication meant all infected properties would have their herds culled, he said.

Most would happen in the first or second year.

“Phased eradication means working with farmers to manage it.”

Animal health lab specialist incursion investigator Tom Rawdon said there was no evidence that being a neighbouring farm to an infected property increased the risk of infection.

Tracing problems had proved to be more of a problem, he said.

“Calves moving off dairy farms with no tags has been a major issue for us and caused complications in the tracing department for us.”

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