Government and farming sector leaders have agreed to attempt the eradication of cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand to protect the national herd and the long-term productivity of the farming sector.
Mycoplasma bovis, bacteria that can cause mastitis, pneumonia, and other diseases in cattle, was first identified in the country in July and has since spread to at least 37 farms.
Announcing the largest cull in the nation's history yesterday, Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern said that while she sympathised with farmers, the government had "one shot" at eliminating the disease.
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.
The cost of eradication will be largely borne by the government, with Dairy NZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand to pay 32 per cent.
The disease has been found on 38 farms in New Zealand so far, and it's because of it's relatively low numbers, affecting less than one percent of dairy farms, that eradication is highly possible according to DairyNZ Chairman Jim van der Poel. Accordingly, about 150,000 cows, bulls, and calves will be killed in a desperate measure to keep under control and ultimately eradicate the spread of Mycoplasma Bovis in the country.
"Today's decision to eradicate is driven by the Government's desire to protect the national herd from the disease and protect the base of our economy - the farming sector", Jacinda Ardern said.
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"No one ever wants to see mass culls".
New Zealand is home to some 10 million cows, about double its human population. "So if we have an opportunity to be the country that eradicates this disease, then we'll take it".
Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor said it was important all farmers supported the operation.
Southland Federated Farmers meat and wool chairwoman Bernadette Hunt said a better job had to be done in supporting those who were having to "make a really big sacrifice for the future of New Zealand".
Some experts fear the decision will come at a huge cost.
Federated Farmers, an advocacy organisation, said there were some farmers who opposed the cull but authorities needed to try to address the bacteria before it was too late.
Bloomberg reported that officials expect to know by the end of the year whether or not the mission to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis is working.