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

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. 

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. 

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

Video: 'They were going hard' – witness reveals desperate emergency battle to try and save NZDF soldier's life on Coromandel beach

A man who witnessed the battle to save the life of Sergeant Wayne Taylor on a Coromandel beach this morning has talked about the distressing scene he encountered.

Dave Telford, who is staying at the beach in a camper van, told 1 NEWS he saw three IRB's come onto the beach, before the occupants let off a flare, alerting the Westpac Rescue Helicopter where to land.

"Initially it looked like an exercise, but then we thought Westpac would not be involved if it was an exercise, then having the paramedics running was a good indication.

"It's obviously very sad, no one likes to see a life lost, and for the guys involved in it, it must be heart-breaking," Mr Telford said.

Sergeant (SGT) Wayne Taylor
Sergeant Wayne Taylor. Source: NZ Defence Force

Sergeant Taylor is survived by his wife and four children.

He joined the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment as a member of the Army Reserve in 1993 — joining the Regular Force in October 1997, serving in East Timor and Afghanistan.

"Many of the Regiment, both RNZIR and NZSAS, will remember him as an outstanding soldier, leader, father, family man, and friend to many, as well as being an all-round top bloke," Major General Peter Kelly Chief of Army said.

Dave Telford knew it wasn't a training drill when he saw paramedics running towards the scene on Coromandel beach in which Sergeant Wayne Taylor died. Source: 1 NEWS