Farmer welfare is behind the push from a group of Mid Canterbury farmers dealing with Mycoplasma bovis phased eradication, who have set up an online farmer-to-farmer support group.

The open page Mbovis Affected Farmers on Facebook was set up in late November and had reached farmers throughout the country.

It was aimed at minimising stress on farmers going through the eradication process.

The group spokesman, Mid Canterbury farmer Duncan Barr, said it was well-known how beneficial farmer-to-farmer contact was and the page allowed farmers to find out about anything relevant to the M.bovis biosecurity incursion or about Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) response activity.

Advertisement

''We are looking to [share information] between farmers to minimise some of the difficulties already faced by others who have gone through the response activity.''

Barr has two properties. His dairy farm at Ealing was unaffected, but his run-off block of 450 to 500 dry stock calves, yearlings and beef cattle, at Lowcliffe, was recently confirmed with M.bovis.

The property had been under Notice of Direction (NOD) on and off since June 6.

M.bovis was confirmed on November 23.

The length of time and ''complete lack of information'' during that period was difficult to deal with and during the whole process he felt ''totally isolated''.

''We need to start talking to people and let them know they are not alone.

''In a bizarre sort of way, if you find out other people are having trouble too, you feel better.''

''We are encouraging farmers to share with other farms they know to be affected. For those who do not use Facebook, the group can be reached via email at mbovisaffectedfarmers@gmail.com

Advertisement

''MPI has said they have made improvements to their processes. We hope that this is true; if not, this Facebook group will highlight issues and allow MPI the opportunity to fix them.

''We also hope to have productive communications with the response team and [the Facebook page] will provide another avenue to highlight problems in the response directly to them.

''We welcome all affected farmers to join - both those under regulatory controls and those under surveillance testing,'' he said.

''Posts can be made anonymously via the administrator if required but we are intent on providing a beneficial and positive environment to help each other - not to attack people.''

Behind the scenes, the Facebook page has a variety of people from a cross-section of farm systems with a variety of skills and experiences working to represent farmers.

They were at various stages of the eradication process, or in positions of understanding, and collectively had made themselves available to help.

Barr hoped MPI understood the importance, and value, of connecting farmers with each other for support.

He encouraged MPI field staff to also share the Facebook page with new farmers.

He said MPI's incident control point managers continued to be the conduit between farmers, MPI and Rural Support Trust staff.

''However, in sharing their own experiences, we hope farmers feel better prepared to navigate through the response quagmire.''

- Central Rural Life