Sympathy for farmers faced with culling their herds to try to get rid of Mycoplasma bovis is leavened by the knowledge that – just as with the kiwifruit Psa-V virus - it was most likely unsecure practice by one of their own that brought it here.

One likely source: infected bull semen, brought in from a country where the disease is endemic and not properly checked either before importation or at the border.

Certainly that's how Psa got in – from an importation of pollen from China that also contained anthers (part of kiwifruit stamen) that were cleared by MAF (now MPI) without being checked for infection.

That failure of border biosecurity formed a large part of the class action growers collectively took against the government, seeking compensation; a decision from last year's trial is pending.


Now, proper compensation for lost herds and production already seems uppermost in the minds of farmers who've been forced to cull cows on farms where m.bovis has been confirmed.

Which on one hand is fair enough; but on the other this outbreak seems very karmic, given "dirty dairy" and the "my bloody land and I'll do what I like" attitude many in the farming sector still cling to.

Federated Farmers, I'm looking at you!

Because one farmer (or industry-support company) taking a shortcut of some kind and causing an epidemic is no different to the dreaded spectre of a genetically-engineered organism being smuggled in and "tested" on some cocky cockie's farm; getting loose; and causing a biodiversity disaster that would make Mycoplasma seem minor in comparison.

Yet the Feds still – still – try to maintain that one individual non-scientist farmer should have the right to trial GMOs if they choose, and nobody should be able to tell him/her otherwise.

Which part of stupid do they not understand?

Well, perhaps M. bovis may be that part, and they'll finally get it. But I'm not holding my breath.

Look, I do feel sorry for all those who've had to kill their herds, and I don't mean to tar all farmers with one's mistake, but it's past time their industry stopped behaving as if the only rules they'll observe are the ones they make up themselves.
Because this is what that leads to.

And when you have some farmers not even telling other farmers their herds are infected and others baulking at co-operating with the Government's inspection regime at a time when "moving day" is upon them and cattle are being dispersed to winter pastures all over the country, you really do have to wonder if talking up the need for instant compo is the smartest stance.

However, although you can't guard against stupid entirely, the real culprits in this calamity are successive governments who, ignoring the threat to our unique and fragile environment, blithely allowed a strict biosecurity system to become dysfunctional by downsizing and underfunding it at a time when trade was becoming more open and risks greater by the day.

Result? Didymo, grass carp, Argentinian ants, white-tailed spiders, varroa mites, myrtle rust, brown marmorated stink bugs, pea weevil, velvetleaf, Eucalyptus variegated beetle, Queensland fruit fly, Bonamia ostreae, painted apple moth, Psa-V, mycoplasma bovis. And more.

Many of which weren't here even 10 years ago.

So yes, I'm sad that 23,000-and-counting cows have had to die, but I'm sadder that laxness has crept in to the point people don't seem to consider our fragile ecosystems before bending the biosecurity rules.

That's an attitudinal problem that appears to be getting worse, not better.

For the love of our country, let's stop being so one-eyed.