Farmers in the lower North Island have been told it may be spring milking time before a plan of attack has been set for the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.

More than 100 farmers attended a meeting convened by MPI with industry leaders speaking about the disease on Thursday afternoon.

Officials described the meeting as helpful, informative and "positive" though some farmers expressed frustration at the low level of penalties for breaching bio-security measures.

The MC for the meeting at St Peter's Church in Pahiatua was Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis - herself a dairy farmer at Hukanui.

Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis, a dairy farmer with her husband Mike, addresses the meeting. Photo / Steve Carle
Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis, a dairy farmer with her husband Mike, addresses the meeting. Photo / Steve Carle

The meeting was told that there was no definitive answer to how the disease became present in New Zealand.

During question time, officials said eradicating the disease was not the only concern as, until it was found out how the disease came into the country through any of seven pathways, it could return.

Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott summed the meeting up: "I thought overall it was very positive. It was full of information.

"I think the farmers who attended learned quite a lot about some of the things they can do on-farm that can minimise the risk [of M. bovis]. I think they understand the situation MPI is in regarding the disease.

"It's not a simple eradicate or not. There's a lot of factors - the disease is very difficult to test, to measure, to identify.

"Given all those factors it is going to take some time. Spring milking was given perhaps as as a time to decide whether to eradicate or not.

"There is a lot of information out there for farmers to look at.

"They do have to make the effort to educate themselves, to pick up change. The end result will be a lot of processes and on-farm practices that change as a result of M. bovis.

"There were a few anxious people, understandably, but I think the MPI guys did an excellent job explaining the situation to everyone in the room.

"It was a very helpful meeting. With all the participants and industry representatives, it was a collaborative effort.

"It was spelled out that its not MPI's responsibility or Dairy NZ or any one particular group. It's everyone in the room's responsibility to minimise the risk and further spread the disease," he said.

Pori farmer Graeme Dyke was critical of the paltry fines under the National Livestock Identification and Tracing Scheme, or NAIT, system.

"They should be from $1000 to $3000 for infringements, not from $150 to $300," he said.

Dyke was concerned at the delay by MPI of the infected farm next door to him owned by the government (Landcorp) in slaughtering the 900 cattle.

He was told by Geoff Gwyn, response director with Biosecurity New Zealand, this matter was an issue of confidentiality between the farmer and MPI.

During the meeting, Gwyn said "things need to change. We need to be more resilient to these shocks. We've all got to learn from this."

Mayor Collis said "biosecurity going forward, will become a far greater issue for all of us.

"There's direct changes to my own farming business that I'll make, because I do want to sell my calves, around trucking, clean on - clean off is certainly something I'll be discussing with my husband Mike.

"I can't stress enough good record keeping. We really need to keep this is mind as we are culling stock and preparing for calving," she said.

In December last year the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) announced it had discovered the disease in the North Island for the first time at a Hastings farm.