Govt decision on M. bovis cattle disease

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According to the Ministry for Primary Industries, so far some 26,000 cows have been culled and it estimates another 126,000 cattle will need to be slaughtered as phased eradication will involve killing all cattle on all infected properties along with cattle on most restricted properties.

Found in Europe and the USA, the bacteria can cause cows to develop mastitis, pneumonia, arthritis and other diseases. The bacteria is not a threat to humans, but can cause production delays on farms.

The decision was a "tough call" but had to be made because the alternative was the spread of the disease across the country, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. They say all the infections found so far can be traced back to a single farm, and that the bacteria likely arrived in New Zealand 18 months before they were first identified.

A cow is seen near the fence of a pastoral farm near Auckland August 6, 2013.

The main aim of this culling project is to protect the New Zealand economy, with milk being the countries single largest export.

After Mycoplasma bovis was first discovered in New Zealand last July, the government and dairy industry had to act.

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In Ashburton, some farmers are anxious that eradicating Mycoplasma bovis will disproportionately hurt their herds through culling. The cost of the eradication program is estimated at 886 million New Zealand dollars ($616 million) over ten years.

However, many healthy cattle will also be killed in the cull.

Federated Farmers, an advocacy organisation, said there were some farmers who opposed the cull but authorities needed to try to address the bacteria before it was too late.

"If we don't take this one chance, the disease will spread and the risk of it eventually affecting many of our herds is high", Poel wrote in a statement for DairyNZ.

An investigation into how Mycoplasma bovis got into the country is still underway.