COMMENT: Peter Williams is a retired veterinarian. Here we writes a series of questions and concerns for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), veterinarians and stock agents about the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.

An open letter to MPI, Veterinarians and Stock Agents.

Could you please answer the following questions and concerns?

1/ Why was the initial response on day one of the outbreak of M Bovis not one of an immediate imposition of total movement control of all cattle for a 5K radius at least?

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2/ As more farms were identified with the disease why weren't these areas increased in numbers and size?

3/ There is/was to be a meeting to discuss movement for winter grazing (now labelled urgent). Should not this be a meeting to announce total movement control except for slaughter at freezing works?

4/ With the disease now being diagnosed in the North Island, I presume there will be movement controls applied there, and the South Island should not be allowed to send any cattle north. Where did the disease come from in Waikato? I think this last outbreak shows there should have been vigorous application of movement control from day one and if not locally, (as the disease spread provincially and certainly inter island), why was this not done?

5/ Do MPI officers not have power of entry to examine stock and properties, (at any time during the outbreak and follow up period), of an exotic disease being diagnosed to help with treatment or whatever?

Compensation

Will this be paid to farmers who have been non-compliant regarding the following:

1/ Instructions from MPI personnel re movement of stock and people off and on the farm.

2/ Failure to comply with the NAIT scheme. I know it is cumbersome but the alternative, (of a passport per animal, as it is in the UK), is a lot worse. If every animal from the original farm could have been traced at least the outbreak could have been limited a bit.

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3/ False claims should be treated as fraud and legal action, (as well as no compensation at all), should be instituted.

4/ All farmers should have to account for the majority of the calves born over the last three seasons. Whether sold, bobbied, or bartered, some of the numbers involved are hard to hide as cash payments in order to avoid the IRD and GST etc. We need to know where they have been sold to as part of the follow up to find potential infected properties.

It appears there is clique of big farms/farmers who feel they are above the laws of the land and are trying to run the country.

So MPI etc. - tidy up your act and get rid of this disease even at a lot of cost to some law breaking farmers as well as the other 4.75 million of us.