A South Island farmer affected by Mycoplasma bovis says the cattle disease could change the way New Zealand farms.

Southland farmer Ben Walling runs a mixed business of beef, dairy grazing and contracting. He received 60 calves from Alfons Zeestraten's farm which was later discovered to be infected with cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

The impact of M. bovis on Walling's farm has been devastating and has caused a 23 per cent mortality rate in his young stock. He spoke to Andy Thompson on the Muster on Hokonui about his experience.

Calves have a very low immunity against the disease says Walling, who has lost 300 of his 1400 calves since Mycoplasma bovis was detected on his property.


Walling said he had an important message for farmers unsure about whether M. bovis has affected their farm: "Get hold of MPI. The guys on the ground are brilliant to deal with. They'll help you any way they can...just be honest with them and do your bit."

The M. bovis infection has affected Walling's contracting business "a little bit" but on the whole his clients have been supportive "once they've understood how the bug works...it's not so much of a problem for the contractors." His dairy grazing operation is on a separate property and not under the restricted notice so is not affected by the cattle disease. So far the biggest impact for Walling is the loss of stock.

Walling says Mycoplasma bovis is "quite a hard bug to transfer around," and urges farmers to stick to basic rules to reduce spreading the disease.

"Give your tyres a good clean...sunlight kills the bug...dehydration kills the bug...it's very easy to contain and keep to your property if you stick to some basic rules."

Walling is not sure what the future will bring for his calf rearing operation, saying the two options of culling all his stock or letting them die naturally are both equally unappealing.

One thing Walling is clear on is his belief that Mycoplasma bovis will change New Zealand farming practices. "People have got to understand that if they [MPI] don't take this bug out we have to change the way we farm completely."

"We need to get the general farming community and the public behind the response because...I don't think the general farming community understands how serious this will be...we have to change nearly everything we do."

Listen to the interview below: