Cabinet's decision to opt for eradication of Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand is a bold one and probably the right one, but will involve a lot of anguish and pain for farmers and must be closely scrutinised right through the programme. After failing to detect the presence of the disease for two years before it was discovered last year on a South Canterbury farm, it admits its original handling of the issue was not satisfactory. Some of the slaughtered cattle may be used for beef, but others will be buried on farms or in landfill.
Mycoplasma bovis can lead to conditions such as udder infection, pneumonia and arthritis in affected cattle, but does not pose a food safety risk or any risk to humans. A $16m "loss of production" cost will be borne by affected farmers.
"This is a tough call - no one ever wants to see mass culls", she said.
Home to some 6.6 million cows, New Zealand is one of the world's largest exporters of dairy products.
Since its July discovery, the bacteria was deemed "active" on 37 different properties and 26,000 cows have already been killed, the Guardian reported.
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Katie Milne, the national president of the advocacy group "Federated Farmers", emphasised the support that will be needed for farmers, however, failed to mention the 150,000 cows that will be slaughtered.
However, many healthy cattle will also be killed in the cull.
"Today's decision to eradicate the disease is driven by the government's desire to protect the national herd from the disease and protect the base of our economy - the farming sector", she said. "We need to protect that export earning capacity in our country", he said.
An investigation launched by the country's Ministry of Primary Industries to determine how the bacteria wound up in the country is still ongoing.
Officials say they expect to know by the end of the year whether the eradication plan is working.