Three months into the job as the district's Rural Support Trust welfare response co-ordinator, Frances Beeston says Mid Canterbury farmers are openly talking to each other.

And it has helped remove the stigma around having the Mycoplasma bovis disease.

But not the emotional toll.

She said in Mid Canterbury, due to the size of the district and higher numbers of concentrated infection, everyone knew somebody, or of somebody, going through it.


''People can relate,'' she said. ''If it were one or two farmers they might feel more isolated, but in this district there is a lot more support and understanding around M. bovis.''

''They can talk about it more openly and have nothing to hide.''

It has come a long way since the early days of the disease.

The strength of the community had also allowed them access to information, not seen in other areas.

Some farmers were concerned about having their compensation affected by asking too many questions about the process and systems.

Now, with the support of a Mid Canterbury-based steering committee - M. bovis Affected Farmers, which also ran the M. bovis Affected Farmers Facebook page - farmers had access to more information and a chance to vent their concerns, anonymously or in public.

Or seek information from others already through the system.

''They are helping to work out some of the systematic problems farmers were facing.''


Beeston said there was always going to be an emotional toll for people in the farming community dealing with M. bovis, but there were systems in place to help those who needed it.

Unfortunately for farmers, processes around M. bovis had evolved along the way, as eradication had never been done before.

But Beeston said that meant some farmers were treated like guinea pigs in an unsure system as the programme has developed.

She said people on the ground, those facing the turmoil at the coalface, often wished they had more authority to make farmer-friendly decisions, better tailored for individual situations on farm.

It was the delays in information that put undue stress on people, she said.

It slowed down the process, which included depopulation, compensation and a chance to move forward.

Too many farmers reported that waiting and not knowing were the hardest things to bear.

Beeston said ''farmers want straight-forward, honest answers, where your word is your word.''

She said the support among family, of the farming community and the regional wraparound was a vital link for some of those affected by M. bovis.

Her role was to make sure they had support, when and if they needed it.

She said anyone wanting to talk, or who knew of anyone wanting to talk, could contact Rural Support Trust on 0800-787-254.