Farmers around the country will learn tomorrow whether officials will keep trying to eradicate the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis outbreak or move to managing its spread.

Cabinet will meet tomorrow morning on the final decision over what course of action to follow, with an announcement by the Government to be made tomorrow afternoon.

Peak industry groups DairyNZ, Beef+Lamb, Federated Farmers, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association have been consulted on the decision.

About half of the 23,00 cattle to be culled as a result of the outbreak, which is not harmful to humans, have been slaughtered already.


As at May 24, the number of infected farms was 37, in Waikato, Hawke's Bay, Manawatū, Canterbury, Otago and Southland.

High-risk animal movements have been traced to 3000 farms. About 300 properties are in biosecurity lockdown and 858 are under surveillance.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the cost of the crisis is likely to be higher than the $85 million the Government has put aside for it. It is not known what share of the tab farmers are expected to pick up, but when the kiwifruit PSA disease hit in 2010, the cost of the response was evenly split with growers.

No country with M. Bovis has managed to eradicate the disease. Until July last year, when the first case was reported in a South Canterbury farm, New Zealand was one of only two countries that were free of M. Bovis. Norway is now the only one .

Meanwhile, the Head of Biosecurity New Zealand has reacted angrily to what he called a factually incorrect and unintelligible column about M. Bovis that appeared in the media yesterday.

Journalist Duncan Garner's column for Stuff on Saturday said that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) looked "useless" over its preparedness for the M. Bovis outbreak and its plan ahead.

In a letter to Stuff, Biosecurity NZ head Roger Smith said: "Duncan Garner's recent opinion piece about MPI's response to Mycoplasma bovis is factually incorrect in places, and unintelligible in others.

"To suggest, as Mr Garner has done, that New Zealand can be totally watertight and any incursions are due to MPI 'letting' it into the country are untrue and unfair," Smith said in the letter, posted to MPI's Facebook page.

But he admitted MPI's response had not been perfect and was harder on people than it should have been.

"We know this situation is really tough on affected farmers. We also know our response to date has, at times, not been perfect and it has been harder on individuals than it should have been. Where this is the case, we look to address problems as quickly as possible. But we are trying something no other country has tried – to contain the disease and to give us choices for the future.

"Farmers across our country are worried sick about this disease. In particular, it is a very difficult time for farmers who have been directly affected. They need our support. What they don't need is shallow and incorrect analysis," Smith wrote.