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South Canterbury Rural Support Trust trustee Sarah Barr says she is very concerned for the farmers involved with the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak, describing it as an "excruciating experience" for them.
Mrs Barr, who has been working closely with the farmers, urged the community to support them.
"Keep in mind how terrible it is for these guys losing their animals," she told about 50 people attending a public meeting in Waimate this week.
Ministry for Primary Industries technical liaison officer Victoria Barrell said Mycoplasma bovis was a "terrible disease".
While the science was important, there was a human cost to the response and she was particularly concerned about the farmers embroiled in it "through no fault of their own". She encouraged those attending to "step out of your gumboots" and into theirs.
The MPI wanted to start the cull of 4000 cattle on five Van Leeuwen Dairy Group properties as soon as possible.
It did not want a protracted exercise as that would just exacerbate the fragility that those affected were feeling at the moment, she said.
MPI director of response Geoff Gwyn said the MPI was working with the farmers to plan how to do it. Depopulation was probably the easiest part, as there then had to be a decontamination process before looking at how to repopulate the farms.
His intention was to have the planning done within two weeks and he would then be in a position to make the call for a timeline for depopulation.
Mr Gwyn, who spent several hours with Aad and Wilma Van Leeuwen on Thursday, said it was a serious situation which had a huge impact on people’s livelihoods.
Mycoplasma bovis was a slow-moving disease and something that had been learnt from the outbreak was perhaps more effort needed to be put into the NAIT (National Animal Identification and Tracing) approach.
The NAIT programme traces the movements of cattle and deer throughout the country.It had fallen short of the MPI’s expectations and, if it had been a fast moving disease, then there might have been a very different scenario, he said.