New Zealand to cull more than 100,000 cows to eradicate Mycoplasma disease

Geraldine Edwards
May 28, 2018

Mycoplasma bovis was first detected in New Zealand in July previous year, and manifests in mastitis in cows, severe pneumonia, ear infections and other symptoms.

Mycoplasma bovis can cause such ailments as mastitis, pneumonia, and arthritis.

In this May 21, 2017 photo, cows rest in a paddock on a farm near Invercargill, New Zealand.

Farming is vital to the economy in New Zealand, whose isolation has helped protect it from some diseases which affect herds elsewhere.

"This is a tough time, and the pain and anguish they're going to go through is really ugly", she said of the affected farmers.

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Frank Peters struggled to contain his emotions as he talked about sending 670 cows to their deaths as the Mycoplasma bovis disease spreads.

24,000 animals have already been killed in the launch of a mass-scale slaughter which will cost the country an estimated $886 million NZD - and won't necessarily spare healthy animals.

Since it was first discovered, 26,000 cows have been culled, and the disease is classified as "active" on 37 properties.

The slaughtered cattle may be used for beef, or buried on farms or in landfill. It has 6.6m dairy cows.

Should a farmer protest the slaughter, New Zealand authorities can legally force the process.

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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.

"We don't know, in the long-term, what impact it could collectively have on an industry that is incredibly important to New Zealand's economy", she said.

New Zealand is the world's largest exporter of dairy products, and produces 3% of the world's milk.

Ardern said total eradication of the disease was possible as it was not yet widespread and had presented in only one strain.

Officials say they expect to know by the end of the year whether the eradication plan is working.

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