Northland farmers should send stock agents "down the road" if they cannot answer hard questions about the movement of cattle in light of the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says.

The minister admitted the law pertaining to the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system had been deficient in terms of enabling Northland farmers to trace calves brought from the South Island that contributed to the number of infected herds in the region.

"We have changed the law and now every farmer has the ability to ask all the hard questions of stock agents and people supplying them and where they got them from. Not just the last point of sale but prior to that.

"Ask the person supplying the stock as many questions as you can as to the source of them. You have the legal right to do that and if an agent can't give you a straight answer, send him down the road."


O'Connor's comments followed the opening by the Ministry for Primary Industries of a new M.bovis Northland regional headquarters in Whangārei with 12 full-time staff plus technical veterinarians travelling from outside the region to co-ordinate efforts to eradicate the disease.

The headquarters on Dyer St in Raumanga will disseminate information about M.bovis to farmers, agricultural businesses, farming lobby groups and other interested parties.

MPI officials will also use the officers to visit farms to test herds and work with farmers whose farms are under movement control.

"It's been a challenge to find the right place but as the number of infected herds has climbed we've put more staff and the co-ordination is absolutely critical at the core of everything we do so this will help with that for both farmers, for people, for agricultural businesses they can come to this hub," O'Connor said.

Five farms in Northland had confirmed cases of M.bovis as at Friday last week and all cattle movements on and off those farms are restricted.

Movement controls have been lifted on a further 13 farms after stock were culled and cleaning and disinfection were completed.

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O'Connor said the escalation in the number of infected herds in Northland has come about through a number of factors, including a deficient NAIT system.


"We've had unethical stock agent behaviour. While the law may have been deficient, the behaviour of stock agents has been abhorrent in promoting risky trading.

"The law has needed to be upgraded to deal with this particular programme so we have worked through all of those things and so clearly some of the lessons that we've learnt and the mistakes made have flowed through.

"We are getting on top of each and every one of those challenges and everyone, the vets and stock agents, meat companies they all have to play a positive role to try and eradicate this disease.

"Some farm behaviour and some trading practices may need to change to ensure we don't continue to spread M.bovis," he said.