Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday a further 126,000 cattle would be destroyed in a effort to rid the Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand, as the Government moves forward with "phased eradication."

Professor Keith Woodford spoke to The Country's Jamie Mackay about the decision, saying it could be a "useful step" in the fight against the cattle disease, once there is more clarity about what it entailed.

"We still haven't got the details of just what phased eradication means," says Woodford who has asked Minister for Agriculture Damien O'Connor for clarification around the term and what negotiating power farmers will have.

"Some of these farmers would actually prefer to milk through the next season because if their cows are slaughtered now there's no chance of them having cows for the coming season and the cost to the Government would also be a whole lot less. So as long as there's a quarantine ... then that seems a useful step."


The Government has committed to reviewing the situation in spring when it will have more information on the extent of the spread. If Mycoplasma bovis is prevalent in New Zealand, it could mean changing to management instead of eradication.

"One of the real worries is that the disease has been here longer than what MPI thinks," says Woodford who has concerns that the Ministry for Primary Industries is still slow to recognise how early M. bovis could have been in New Zealand.

Compensation is important for farmers affected by Mycoplasma bovis and MPI has been criticised for being too slow with processing claims. Woodford says compensation is a complicated issue and any promise to speed up claim times "aren't all that realistic."

"It's relatively easy to value an animal ... but then when it comes to loss of income, that's really hard. You have to be able to verify your losses. What you're having to verify is something that didn't actually happen, but what would have happened."

Also in today's interview: Professor Keith Woodford discusses who should pay for Mycoplasma bovis, the farming community or the tax payer?

Listen below: