The 100,000-plus cattle death toll so far from the Government's Mycoplasma bovis disease eradication drive is not unexpected but the process has been "shambolic" at times, says Federated Farmers.

Latest figures from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), which began the eradication attempt a year ago with the support of industry advocate groups DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb, said 171 farm properties had been confirmed as having the disease since then, 129 of which had been cleared of cattle and declared safe to repopulate.

The remaining 43 properties were considered actively infected. M. bovis was first officially diagnosed in New Zealand in 2017.

MPI said operational costs for the eradication attempt at the end of May had reached $154 million.


By the end of last month 101,097 cattle had been culled from properties considered infected.

The culling decree has been controversial and heartbreaking for farmers because many of the animals - including whole herds of cattle bred over decades - sent for slaughter have shown no clinical signs of the disease. But MPI has said blood tests showed they had been exposed to M.bovis.

Critics of the eradication programme say M.bovis could have been latent in New Zealand cattle for many years but has only surfaced because of intensive dairying.

The disease is endemic, and managed, in the cattle herds of New Zealand's trading partners. It is not passed to humans.

M.bovis sickens calves and can cause lameness, mastitis and abortions in cows. It was first officially diagnosed by a private practice vet in Canterbury in 2017.

Federated Farmers mid-Canterbury provincial president David Clark said the cattle cull numbers were tracking with expectations.

He still supports the Government-industry decision to try to stamp out the disease here but is critical of aspects of the eradication programme.

"We have to remember the acute symptoms when they break out are devastating. We can't forget this is a very nasty disease. The decision was sound. However the process ....has been less than ideal if not shambolic at times."


Farmers and farming families had been "placed under incredible stress", he said. Some farms had been dealt with by MPI "effectively" and some not.

There had been "huge" delays in getting farms "depopulated" so farmers could carry on with their business and there had been delays in compensation payments.

More recently, after rural New Zealand over summer had been led to believe the fight against M.bovis "had been tracking nicely", MPI had given notice that 1100 properties had been put back under "trace, surveillance and notice of direction", he said.

"This has undermined confidence in the (eradication) programme," said Clark.