"While you engage in Chinese whispers, you're wasting energy that could be used in this response and helping farmers that are suffering, and I mean really suffering.

"You would never, ever want to go through what we've seen these farmers go through," Sarah Barr says of those affected by Mycoplasma bovis.

The South Canterbury Rural Support Trust representative did not mince her words when speaking at the Federated Farmers South Canterbury annual meeting about the cattle disease outbreak.

"There's a whole lot of theories out there; 80% of it is bollocks.

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"While you engage in Chinese whispers, you're wasting energy that could be used in this response and helping farmers that are suffering, and I mean really suffering.

"Unless you know something to be fact, shut up, and help the farmers who are going through this."

Mrs Barr said that the trust now had "dozens and dozens of clients who have lost their herds, been on the brink of financial disaster, and still might end up that way".

As well as helping the farm owners, the trust had been working with farm staff who had been made redundant.

"All the staff have understood their employers' predicament and wanted to help," she said.

She was annoyed by other farmers saying "the horse has bolted" — that it was too late to eradicate M. bovis. That equated to not taking biosecurity seriously in their own businesses.

"Can we be sure anything we do can preclude infection? No.

"Can we minimise the risk? Yes."

Trust colleague Cara Gregan had been helping farmers apply for compensation for losses because of the outbreak.

"We're so bloody lucky to have her," Mrs Barr said.

"Without her, these farmers would be stuffed."

Mrs Gregan said it was "a really big process", especially when the applicants were "highly stressed and highly emotive".

"It's been really, really challenging. We've been in their lives; we are the only constants in their life. We've become part of people's families.

"These people are hurting. One family is down to its last $5000."

Some contract milkers who had to have their herd culled were "devastated", Mrs Gregan said. They had moved to Australia.

"It's the human factor. The cost was huge. It just broke them."