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A Mycoplasma bovis action group has been formed in Southland by farmers, veterinarians and other industry stakeholders.
The aim of MASS (Mycoplasma bovis Action & Support Southland) was to provide a voice for those in the region and also assist the farming community in understanding and dealing with the outbreak of the bacterial cattle disease, spokesman Bevan Collie said in a statement.
Since first detected on a Van Leeuwen Dairy Group property in the Waimate district in July last year, the number of confirmed properties has risen to 17 and includes farms in Southland.
There was a strong call for swift action in eradicating the disease which the group wanted to convey to the Government, Mr Collie said.
Eradication had to be the goal as the disease could have a ``terrible'' effect on the wellbeing of cattle, and would require increased use of antibiotics.
Eradication would also be significantly cheaper than the cost of living with the disease and treating cattle for infection, he said.
Failure to eradicate it could lead to the demise of the share-milking industry in New Zealand, the group believed.
The structure of the dairy industry provided opportunities for young farmers to move into ownership. The loss of share-milking or contract milking would mean the end of those opportunities and ``threatens the death of something unique to New Zealand''.
Farming practices in Southland were different from other parts of the country, and included the more frequent movement of stock, Mr Collie said.
``We know stock movements to be one of the main ways M. bovis is spread. We urgently need information to help assess and manage this risk. This means rapid testing and being kept informed of testing results,'' he said.
Weather conditions, coupled with the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak, was beginning take its toll on farmers' wellbeing, DairyNZ said.
Many dairy farmers had experienced a ``rough few months'', whether because of flood or drought conditions, or understanding how to protect their farms from the disease, DairyNZ wellness and wellbeing programme leader Dana Carver said.
She encouraged stressed farmers to contact the Rural Support Trust as their first point of contact.
South Canterbury Rural Support Trust representative Sarah Barr said the number of calls being received was up on average across the country.
Most calls related to emotional stress, often linked to concerns about financial repercussions.
Concern about Mycoplasma bovis was causing farmers more stress and she encouraged farmers to seek information about the disease to help prevent ``scaremongering''.
``If you discover someone in your community has had their farm test positive for M. bovis, now is when they need your support the most and it's when having a community looking after one another is crucial.''
The best thing farmers could do to help reduce concerns was to take precautions to reduce the risk of the disease spreading to their farm, she said.
Last week, Federated Farmers national president Katie Milne said the organisation was still hopeful the disease could be eradicated with farmer support.
Farmers had a role to play around traceability by ensuring NAIT tagging and recording of all cattle and deer.
On-farm disinfecting policies, buffers on boundaries and quarantine of newly introduced stock should become part of a new best practice of making farms ``a fortress'' when it came to biosecurity, she said.