New Zealand is About to Kill 150,000 Cows

New Zealand plans to cull 150,000 cattle over the next few years in an effort to wipe out an infectious disease that farmers say is threatening their livelihoods. It’s the biggest animal cull in the country’s history.

The plans, which were announced over the weekend, see farming industry leaders and New Zealand’s politicians pledge $886 million ($A616) over the next 10 years in an effort to wipe out the disease Mycoplasma bovis in New Zealand’s herds.

New Zealand is one of the largest producers of milk in the world, with over 10 million cows, over six million of which are used by the dairy industry. Milk products are central to its trade, so it is not overstating things to say that the dairy industry is something that affects New Zealand’s economy in a broad manner.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that she empathized with farmers who, she knew, would suffer considerable losses as a result of the culls. However, “Standing back and allowing the disease to spread would simply create more anxiety for all farmers,” she is quoted as saying.

“We don’t know, in the long-term, what impact it [Mycoplasma] could collectively have on an industry that is incredibly important to New Zealand’s economy,” she adds. “So if we have an opportunity to be the country that eradicates this disease, then we’ll take it.”

What is Mycoplasma bovis disease?

Mycoplasma is a bacterial infection that spreads between cows who are kept in close confines — making the dairy industry’s factory farming a conducive environment.

Once infected, cattle may show no symptoms whatsoever. If symptoms do emerge, they can be hard to pick out  from other health problems: mastitis, spontaneous terminations in cattle who are pregnant, pneumonia and arthritis. All of these can occur for other reasons, so farmers have a difficult time of spotting the disease before it has had a chance to spread through a herd.

Young cattle who are suckling are at particular risk of being infected and potentially spreading the disease to other farms, as they may be transported out of their homestead.

Mycoplasma was first confirmed in New Zealand in July of 2017 on two farms in South Canterbury. It is likely that the infection entered New Zealand several months before, despite New Zealand’s strict controls on importing infected animals.

As of the last count, there are 13 farming properties under quarantine for the disease.

To date, 24,000 cattle  have already been culled over the past few months, and a further 128,000 are planned for slaughter within the next few years. This would bring the total number of animals killed over 150,000 and easily make it the biggest wildlife cull in New Zealand’s history.

Is such a large cull really necessary?

Campaigners have called into question whether such a large cull is necessary. They point to Australia, which culls on a more controlled basis, only when infected cows are detected in a herd. This has allowed Australia to bring M. bovis under control, but it cannot eradicate it.

That, New Zealand’s authorities argue, is the key difference.

They believe that the outbreak of M. bovis can be traced to just one infection pathway. They argue that this means culling to eradicate isn’t just possible, it is actually in the best interests of the cattle themselves and the farmers who, without strong action now, will face welfare issues for greater and greater numbers of New Zealand’s cattle and dairy herds. They contend that this cull, which works out at just over two percent of New Zealand’s total herd numbers, is necessary to safeguard the wider herds and the integrity of New Zealand’s farming industry.

New Zealand’s farmers, meanwhile, have spoken out about their heartbreak at having to embark on a cull. New Zealand’s politicians and farming unions have pledged both financial and emotional support during this time and have asked that farmers who may be facing substantial losses are checked on and monitored to ensure their mental health stays strong.

Related at Care2

43 comments

S M
S M18 days ago

This likely due to NZ stupidly starting dairy factory farming. To have that many cows in a land mass that could not possibly support that many bovine in natural settings was a recipe for disease. ..... And how are they going to dispose of all these cows, pollute the air, burning them, as happened in U.K. the last foot and mouth disease?

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Christina M
Christina M20 days ago

You know this story would be different if you replaced the word cow with human, with dog. Make the connection. Go vegan.

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Sherri S
Sherri S20 days ago

How about we stop exploiting these poor cows! However, maybe they are better off dead than living a life of hell!

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M s
M s21 days ago

if gluttonous humans would STOP EATING MEAT ...............Next STOP jamming so many animals in tight confined quarters this is common sense but as usual all about money and profit The animals ALWAYS pay the price what is new zealand going to do to prevent this from happening again? will they regulate smaller herds,increased sanitation?

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Winn A
Winnie A21 days ago

:-(

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Terri S
Terri S21 days ago

Is anything being done to find a cure or are they just doing what comes easy for humans - kill, kill, kill???

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Frances Bell
Frances Bell21 days ago

Minor quibble when the whole issue is so huge, from welfare concerns with the whole factory farming industry to this health concern and the terrible solution in this particular instance but - farmed cows are not now wildlife. Perhaps we should have left them as wildlife hundreds of years ago, rather than domesticating them, fiddling with their genetics, and abusing them for profit.

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Chad A
Chad Anderson21 days ago

Awful.

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Veronica B
Veronica B21 days ago

Greedy Cruel people!!!

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Anne Moran
Anne M22 days ago

150,000 cows to be slaughtered = 150,000 tears... - How very sad...

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