Federated Farmers' dairy chairman for Northland has cautiously welcomed the Government's decision to try to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis.

"I think going forward it's probably the best thing," Ashley Cullen said. "At least this way the farmers get some compensation."

Testing was still being completed at the two Northland farms under Notices of Direction (NODs). Multiple tests for Mycoplasma bovis were required to establish the presence or absence of the disease, MPI said.

Read more: First mention of mycoplasma bovis in Northland
Two Northland farms under Mycoplasma bovis restrictions
Mycoplasma bovis testing ongoing at Northland farms, MPI says

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"We are continuing to work with these farmers to test their cattle. We cannot give you a timeline as multiple tests are required over a period of time."

One of the farms under restrictions was near Tangiteroria and the other was in the Hokianga area.

There were an additional 10 properties "of interest" in Northland, MPI said. According to the latest map released of the M. bovis outbreak, around 20 properties have registered "forward traces", meaning cattle have been moved there from infected or suspicious properties.

Mycoplasma bovis has not been confirmed at any properties in the Northland region.

The cattle potentially affected by M. bovis in Northland were beef weaners, Cullen said, meaning local dairy herds would be unaffected even if the farms under NODs returned positive results.

"They should be able to easily isolate it when they go to the works," Cullen said.

The spread of M. bovis was at least partly due to shortcomings in the NAIT (National Animal Identification and Tracing) system of tracing stock, he said.

"It only tells us where the animal was last placed and not where they came from before that."

The effort to eradicate the disease will likely result in the culling of around 126,000 cattle, in addition to the 26,000 already being culled.

Federated Farmers Northland dairy chairman Ashley Cullen. Photo / John Stone
Federated Farmers Northland dairy chairman Ashley Cullen. Photo / John Stone

The cost of eradication was estimated at $886 million over 10 years, $870m of which would be borne by the Government, Beef and Lamb NZ and Dairy NZ as the cost of the response. That would include compensation to affected farmers.

The projected cost of long-term management of the disease was $1.2 billion, $698m of which would be borne by farmers as loss of production.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said it was the country's only opportunity to get rid of M. bovis.

"We all agree that while there remains a chance to get rid of this disease, we should take it. It's the only chance we'll get."

O'Connor also said farmers would have easier access to compensation in the future.

"I've also asked MPI to revisit the compensation process and they've developed a new streamlined approach for those whose animals are culled to enable a substantial payment within a matter of days."

Most of the eradication work was expected to be done over the next two years. MPI announced on Tuesday it was hiring an additional 50 field staff to help deal with the M. bovis outbreak.

The disease causes mastitis (udder infections), abortions and arthritis in cattle.

The eradication plan

• All cattle on all infected properties will be culled, along with cattle on most restricted properties
• All infected farms found in future will also be depopulated
• Infected farms will be disinfected after depopulation, will lie fallow for 60 days after which they can be restocked
• "Intensive" surveillance, including tracking and tracing will continue to detect infected herds
• There will be some flexibility for farmers in timing of culling to offset production losses
• An improved compensation process will be put in place for farmers, meaning a "substantial part" of claims will take 4-10 days, and a full verified claim 2-3 weeks