'We've had lots of tears' - Otago farmers struggling with emotional impact of slaughter of 4000 infected cows

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1 NEWS

The decision to destroy 4000 North Otago dairy cows infected with the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis is just starting to sink in for their owners. 

The culling was deemed necessary to prevent the spread of the painful cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis across North Otago.
Source: 1 NEWS

While the farmers agree it's necessary to wipe out the disease, they're still struggling with the emotional impact.

"These animals are their pets, if you like. They are like their dogs and cats if you were living in town," Sarah Barr of Rural Support told 1 NEWS.

"And we have one farmer who has a good proportion of their herd they can walk out and put their arms around in the paddock. They're their babies." 

Ms Barr has been supporting the farmers on all seven properties since July, when the painful disease was first discovered.

"We've had lots of tears along the way, and uncertainty about what their future holds," she said. 

The Ministry for Primary industries carried out nationwide testing to ensure the disease is only a problem around Oamaru, before making its decision to cull all infected stock.

MPI director of response, Geoff Gwynn, said the ministry is "90 per cent confident we're going to actually remove the disease from New Zealand". 

But it could be weeks before the cull gets underway. 

"The most challenging part to it is planning to do it in a biosecurity safe way," Mr Gwynn said.

The properties will be subject to a 60-day stand-down before introducing more stock.

The meat will be processed through freezing works as normal, but MPI says there's no need for any safety concerns. 

"It's important people understand there is no human health risk from either dairy products or animal products," Mr Gwynn said.

Under the Biosecurity Act, the farmers will be compensated. 

"They don't have insurance against disease, but in this situation you've got a unique circumstance where the government is now directing the culling or depopulation," said Tim Mackle Dairy NZ chief executive.

The announcement has put farmers in the surrounding area at ease.

But Rural Support says it's important not to forget those farmers suffering through it as the killing of thousands of their animals gets underway.

"These farms are taking a hit for the whole of the country, and I think we all need to remember that and look after them," Ms Barr said. 

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