Effects of Mycoplasma bovis expected to linger in farming sector, even if disease is eradicated

The Government remains confident New Zealand can become the first country to eradicate the deadly cow disease Mycoplasma bovis, but its effects are still expected to be felt for a long time after.

With some farmers forced to kill thousands of infected cattle, a group of researchers will study the psychological impact the cull has on their livelihoods.

"I was hearing anecdotal comments about children going to school from farms that had been identified as positive with M Bovis and being called names," Dr Fiona Doolan-Noble from Otago University says.

Doolan-Noble, along with colleague Chrys Jaye and veterinarian Mark Bryan, will interview affected farmers over the next two years, before using their research to help those in need.

"There’s considerable shame tied up with families who have been responsible for moving infected cows, we know that in the past suicide in farming communities is not unheard of sadly," Jaye says.

A similar study was conducted in Britain following the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak, which saw more than six million cattle and sheep killed.

"For me, foot and mouth - I almost liken to having appendicitis, it was seven months, it was horrific, but it was dealt to," Dr Doolan-Noble says.

"If I was to have an analogy for mycoplasma, it’s probably a bit more like being diagnosed with type two diabetes. It’s going on and it’s going to be chronic."

Federated Farmers Otago president Simon Davies supports the study.

There's certainly a stigma around it and there probably always will be a stigma ... It’s the same with any exotic disease or infectious disease, people are worried and concerned generally because they don’t have information that they need to know," he says.

All interviews will be confidential, with the study expected to take two years to complete.

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    The slaughter of thousands of cattle with the disease is taking its toll on farmers. Source: 1 NEWS