A key question for MPI and Government to address is how long has Mycoplasma bovis been in New Zealand. The answer to that question, together with MPI’s capacity to upscale their operational capacity, will largely determine whether or not eradication is going to be successful.
If, as the Government now believes, Mycoplasma bovis first arrived here around December 2015 or January 2016 on the Zeestraten property in Southland, then it is reasonable to hope but not necessarily expect that the eradication program will be successful. But if it was here prior to that, then eradication becomes an increasingly long shot. Continue reading
[For the last three years I have been writing fortnightly columns for NZFarmer, which is delivered free to all New Zealand farmers. However the agricultural press in New Zealand is undergoing major change. One part of that change is that Stuff (formerly Fairfax) is now moving towards a digital focus and will cease to publish the weekly NZFarmer. This was my farewell column to NZFarmer.]
With the impending demise of NZ Farmer, this will be my last article published here. So, I had to give a lot of thought as to what I wanted to say.
Right now, we are surrounded by forces for change. There are so many topics that could be covered. So, I have decided to provide a smorgasbord of key issues. Continue reading
It is now increasingly evident that European-sourced semen, imported legally but containing live Mycoplasma bovis that survived the antibiotic cocktail, is the likely source of the organism in New Zealand dairy.
The evidence suggests it struck first in Southland, but there is a likelihood that the same semen has struck on other farms, and then spread from there via progeny.
It is also likely that Mycoplasma bovis arrived in New Zealand via this semen by late 2014 or even earlier. This is an important issue because so far MPI has only focused on events since the end of 2015. Continue reading
[This is an open letter to the Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor, sent on the evening of 29 May 2018, as part of an ongoing dialogue.]
Mycoplasma bovis: focusing on the immediate
This is a further open letter. It is an open letter because it contains information that I believe both you and others need to hear.
First of all, I want to acknowledge phone and email interactions we have had in recent days. I note in particular that you emailed me at 3am this morning which surely tells its own story. Farmers too are emailing me at that time, indicative of the stress they are under.
Now that the eradication decision has been made, then I do not wish to debate that here. Instead I want to focus on maximising the chances that it will work and minimising the pain to the affected farmers.
On the Newshub AM show this morning I focused among other things on the need for MPI to ‘up its game’. Response Director Geoff Gwyn subsequently acknowledged that there may well be lessons to learn, but did not name any when asked by the presenter, and said that he thought that MPI had done many things well. Continue reading
Today’s decision by New Zealand’s Government to undertake a “phased eradication” of Mycoplasma bovis appears to be a useful compromise from the ‘nuclear’ slaughter option. It allows farmers to negotiate as to when their infected herds will be culled. This is a retreat from what has been occurring to date.
The key statement from Government in their press release is that: “There will be some flexibility for farmers in the timing of culling to offset production losses”. Further elaboration of this statement is needed.
A second key point is that Government has committed to reviewing the situation in the spring. By then, we will have a lot more information which should allow more considered decisions. Government may then indeed choose to go down the off-ramp. Continue reading
[This is a letter that I sent today (25 May 2018) to the Minister of Agriculture, Damien O’Connor]
Honourable Damien O’Connor
Minister of Agriculture
I am writing this to you because of the huge decision that Government has to make on Monday. It is an open letter, because there are issues which all New Zealanders need to be informed of.
In a perfect world, we would all hope for eradication of Mycoplasma bovis. But the world is not perfect, and there are no good solutions. Unfortunately, there are real risks that an ongoing policy of eradication is one where the medicine is worse than the disease.
I have been following developments since the first identification of an infection, this being the Tainui property owned by the Van Leeuwen Group and share-farmed by Mary and Sarel Potgieter. I contacted the Van Leeuwens at that time, and I have written about Mycoplasma on six occasions since then (at my own website https://keithwoodford.wordpress.com where articles are archived, and elsewhere), and I have also been interviewed by various radio programs.
I am in contact with the Potgieters (and have their claim documents). I am also in contact with quite some number of the farmers with IPs (Infected Properties) and NODs (suspected properties), who typically contact me because they feel their voices are not to being heard. These emails come through at all hours of the night, which is indicative of the stress these people are under. Continue reading
As I write this on 20 May 2018, New Zealand is at a crucial point in deciding how to manage Mycoplasma bovis. There are no good options. The worst option is for the Government to try and be the boss.
So, who should try to manage Mycoplasma bovis?
At the national level, the answer is ‘no-one’. Farmers must make their own business decisions and take responsibility for those decisions.
Elsewhere in the world, governments do not try to manage Mycoplasma bovis. It is up to farmers to do this. Continue reading