'M. bovis' effort 'madness'

The Ministry for Primary Industries' effort to contain and eradicate cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis is ''madness'' that should stop, says the farmer where it all started.

With 14 farms now confirmed as having the disease, the ministry has criticised farmers for poor compliance with the national livestock tracing scheme, slowing the response to the disease.

But Glenavy dairy farmer Aad van Leeuwen, who owns the farms where the disease was first identified in New Zealand - and has had 4000 cattle culled - said he believed it had been in the country for years.

After going to the United States to learn about the disease, which was prevalent in many other countries, he advised the ministry four months ago to adopt a rigorous nationwide bulk milk testing programme to determine how widespread it was.

''It's made out to be such a terrible thing, but it's very, very manageable; it's been here for a long time already; it is worldwide,'' he said. ''So, instead of ripping communities apart, sending people broke ... I would say this madness needs to stop.

''It was only before Christmas that they were trying to link all these farms to us, which is absolute rubbish. There's no link whatsoever to us.

''If you really want to stop the spread, you should shut down the saleyards and you should stop every truck from carting all day long without a wash and disinfection - economically that's nearly impossible; practically you can't do that.''

The New Zealand Herald reported the ministry was interviewing farmers to fill in gaps in the livestock tracing scheme.

Yesterday, MPI response incident controller David Yard told the Otago Daily Times the scheme ''if used effectively'' was ''the most useful tool to identify where the disease 'could' be''. Yet he said the latest case was identified through bulk milk testing.

''MPI is working with the dairy industry to extend this bulk milk testing ... nationally.''

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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