Wednesday, May 30, 2018


During my life spent in primary production one of the most stressful segments arose around the determination to eradicate TB. Bovine Tuberculosis is one insidious little beastie with a remarkable ability to thwart detection.

Once every  year all bovine stock were mustered and put up a race where a MAF person would inject a small dose of reagent  in the soft skin  between the tail and the rump, three days later that crat would return and scan by feel for a lump at that injection site and if a reactor (a palpable lump) was discovered that beast would be slaughtered asap where TB would be confirmed  post mortem but alas sometimes the animal would be a "clear".
One reactor and the whole heard would be placed on 'movement control' requiring any cattle for sale to carry a "white ear tag" and receive  a discounted price.

We farmed in an area of the Wairarapa where our eight neighbours all went on and off "movement control" over the twenty years yet surprisingly  we managed to remain "Clear" throughout the two decades we operated there.
It did not come easy, I wish to forget how many nights were spent sometimes more than five hours on an open quad bike seeking the dreaded Possum, an uninvited guest that could become infected with Bovine TB but before inevitable death could infect pasture from suppurating lesions, leaving infected grass to be ingested by a grazing beast and a "reactor"  created

Bovine TB is all but eradicated, something I doubted I would see, and now a similar program is to be carried out for Micoplasma bovis.
The cost is claimed to be almost a billion dollars, and that will be only part of the total.
I understand Mpb is harder to detect and the tests are said to be even less reliable than the Reagent test for Bovine TB. A carrier of Mpb is  symptom  free but should a heard come under stress from feed shortage, calving, weather or similar, the little Mpb beggar will awaken and suddenly create mayhem.
With Beef and Dairy such a large part of our economy it has been deemed to be "worth a try" and I support that strategy but unless some advances in detection allied to stricter recording of movement of cattle of all classes it is a monumental task and I fear doomed to fail.

Our biggest risk in preventing infections of TB came from  non bovine vectors, Possums and Deer, Mpb otoh  only requires a transfer of snot across a fence and the natural instincts of cattle to be inquisitive leave that a ready property to property transfer opportunity.
Back in the olden days my turangawaewae was on the old station boundary of two great stations of the Amuri, Lyndon and Leslie Hills.
Lyndon had scab and rabbits so Rutherford of Leslie Hills built a second fence at a distance from the boundary, and what a fence! All steel "T" irons for strainers, flat standards between, eight number eight wires, then attached heavy rabbit netting dug into the soil around six inches to make life difficult for Brer Rabbit, from  The Waiau River to the east to the Hanmer in the west, some ten miles.
At least today with modern technology a hot wire will give a good degree of prevention from "Kissing cows".

There will be some heavy costs monetary, personal and professional for owners of valuable herds, some built up over decades of breeding, feeding and husbandry, all being sent to slaughter.
The cattle based industries that has seen NZ endure and recover from a world wide recession in a shape envied by many,  will need more than dollars.
The people at the front line will need a change in the present attitudes from media and the population across the nation.

Unless someone has a plan to replace the billions we enjoy from dairy and beef, best cease with the cowardly denigration and get behind what I see as a very courageous decision that I sincerely hope delivers.


paul scott said...

The test and cull procedure will be lengthy, as was the TB program.
The figure for control to near eradication at $NZ900 million seems like 8 Phil Twyford number, he's good at maths.

paul scott said...

Over in Taranaki we did the caudal fold test, with a repeat a couple of months later. You had to score two lumps to be culled. We could try it on David.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Wrong test, Paul. You should be looking for Creutsfeldt - Jacob.

The Veteran said...

It is less than 12 months since mpb was first discovered. Much of what we are attempting to do is uncharted territory. I wish the government well in their decision to attempt eradication ... it's a big call but I have no reason to suspect it was taken on anything other than the best possible professional advice.

There will be heartache for many in the farming community and collateral damage to thje economies of many rural towns. Absolute priority has to be given to the early processing of compensation payments so as to allow restocking to proceed apace.