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'Heartache and trauma' – many farmers say human toll of eradicating M. bovis too high

Many farmers say the human toll of tackling the devastating cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis has been too high.

As independent advisers assess the mass eradication programme, the Ministry for Primary Industries says the war against the disease is being won.    

Rosie Dwyer's farm has finally been cleared of disease, but not before 420 calves were slaughtered.

"Six months later we received some compensation for the animals that were killed back in September of 2017. So we currently have another compensation claim with MPI," Ms Dwyer told 1 NEWS. 

Three of the herd on her farm tested positive for Mycoplasma bovis antibodies.

"I wouldn't wish it on anybody. It's been very stressful. There's been a lot of heartache and trauma for farmers. And at the end of the day it could be for nothing," she said.

But MPI, which is attempting full eradication, says it has not been in vain.

"Look, from a national perspective, yes it is working. But that doesn't for a moment minimise the impact it's having on individual communities," Geoff Gwyn, MPI Mycoplasma bovis director, said. 

Ms Dwyer said: "People ask us 'what was it like having M. bovis on your farm?' Well I couldn't tell you 'cause I don't know what it looks like, I've never seen it. If you ask me what it's like having MPI on your farm, I can tell you what that's like - it's not great."

Fifty-thousand cattle have been killed nationwide so far and another 20,000 await the same fate. 

MPI has dealt with 300 of the 500 compensation claims and paid out $32 million so far.

"The good news is we are actually lifting controls faster than we are placing them on. And we've only got around 34 infected properties at the moment," Mr Gwyn said.

But there's still a gaping hole in one area of the investigation. While all genetic information points to a single infection source back in 2015, officials still admit they have no idea how Mycoplasma bovis got into New Zealand in the first place.

"No, that's still the one big unanswered question for us," Mr Gwyn said.

MPI says staff will work through the summer holidays to better support the many farmers who won't get a break. 

Farmers say the human toll of dealing with the cow disease has been devastating for many. Source: 1 NEWS