It’s been a tough 12 months for farmers in Taranaki – excessive rain then drought and now the threat of mycoplasma bovis.
Taranaki Federated Farmers president Donald McIntyre says farmers are generally coping well and that Rural Support Trust has been busy offering assistance to farmers who have found they are feeling stressed.
“At the moment we are in a low risk situation but the risk is still out there so we need to be cautious,” he says.
While a number of farms in the area were identified as having forward traces Donald stresses that the connection with infected farms could sometimes be quite tenuous but that it was a matter of covering every possible eventuality to ensure mycoplasma bovis was stopped in its tracks in New Zealand.
Only two farms have a notice of direction, meaning that their herds had more certain links to infected herds, and are undergoing testing.
He says farmers in the region need to ensure their NAIT records are up to date and accurate so traceability is in place. “The forward tracing of animals has been hard work. It’s been a wake up call for MPI,” he says.
Also on the local TBfree committee, Donald says that in the past when they have asked who was auditing NAIT they were told MPI but that the low rate of prosecution shows in his eyes that there was a distinct lack of enforcement sending the wrong message to farmers.
By making sure the NAIT system is more user friendly it should go a long way towards mitigating potential future compliance issues, he says.
“It may be partly ignorance that has meant that some farmers haven’t been complying. We’re dealing with farmers who don’t enjoy bookwork at the best of times and NAIT is a computer based system they have to comply with.
If something goes wrong the farmer will swear at the computer and it drops to the bottom of the list. “ This of course does not solve the problem or make it go away. NAIT has its issues but by and large it is a system that works.”
He advises farmers to ensure not only that their NAIT records are up to date but to take other precautions, particularly when it comes to mingling of stock.
“Talk to your neighbours and make sure you know what is happening around you. If you are next to a potentially infected farm make sure your animals can’t mix at the boundary as animal to animal transfer is the biggest risk.”
He also advises family and friends to look out for farmers they know as stress levels in such times can rise.
“Due to the drought in December a lot of farmers didn’t make enough supplement to get them through winter. Now mycoplasma bovis so it hasn’t been an easy 12 months.
“Farmers are often unwilling to seek help so people should watch for the danger signs in friends and family and direct them to the help they need if necessary.”
Donald and wife Linda milk 310 cows on a 140ha farm at Ratapiko near Inglewood with the help of a contract milker.
Donald says that Taranaki is a positive region for dairy farming and has the best environmental compliance of any place in New Zealand thanks to a particularly proactive council who audits every farm each year.
“We have a lot of streams, good soil types and rainfall making it a great place to farm cows. We just need to work out way through issues such as mycoplasma bovis and look forward to a positive future.”
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