The New Zealand Government, with the support of the dairy industry, will attempt to eradicate the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand.
The estimated cost of the eradication program is A$818 million, which includes compensation for farmers.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the industry has “one shot” at eradicating a disease that causes painful, untreatable illness in cattle.
It is believed as many as 150,000 head of dairy cattle will be culled. This could drain up to three per cent of milk supply from the global market.
The decision was taken collectively by Government and farming sector bodies after months of intense modelling and analysis to understand the likely impacts of the disease, the potential spread and the costs and benefits of eradication versus other actions.
“The 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,” the Prime Minister said.
“We’ve worked hard to get the information to make this call and I know the past 10 months have been hugely uncertain for our beef and dairy farmers.
“This is a tough call – no-one ever wants to see mass culls. But the alternative is to risk the spread of the disease across our national herd. We have a real chance of eradication to protect our more than 20,000 dairy and beef farms, but only if we act now.”
Eradication will involve culling all cattle on all infected properties along with cattle on most restricted properties.
All infected farms found in future will also be depopulated. Depopulated farms will be disinfected and will lie fallow for 60 days after which they can be restocked.
The Government expects to do most of the eradication work in 1-2 years.
Government will meet 68% of the cost and DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand will meet 32%.
The Government said not acting would have cost the dairy and beef industries $1.3 billion in lost production over 10 years.