New Zealand to slaughter 150,000 cows in record cull

Government hopes the biggest cull in the nation’s history will eradicate the Mycoplasma disease

(Image credit: David Silverman/Getty Images)

New Zealand has ordered a mass cull of cattle in a bid to eradicate disease-causing bacteria from the national herd.

More than 150,000 cows will be slaughtered over the next two years at a cost of NZ$880m (£459m), as the world’s biggest dairy exporter attempts to deal with an outbreak of Mycoplasma disease.

The government will meet 68% of the cost, while farmers and the cattle industry will pay the rest, the New Zealand Herald reports.

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Announcing the largest cull in the nation’s history yesterday, Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern said that while she sympathised with farmers, the government had “one shot” at eliminating the disease.

“Standing back and allowing the disease to spread would simply create more anxiety for all farmers,” she said.

Mycoplasma bovis, bacteria that can cause mastitis, pneumonia, and other diseases in cattle, was first identified in the country in July and has since spread to at least 37 farms.

It does not pose a food safety risk or humans but does cause significant production losses. Some of the slaughtered cattle may be used for beef, but others will be buried on farms or in landfill.

Officials carrying out the cull “have the legal authority to forcibly enter farms and kill animals even in cases where a farmer might resist, but they said they hope they don't have to use those powers,” Bloomberg reports.

Katie Milne, president of the advocacy group Federated Farmers, said they would try to ensure that farmers received the financial and emotional support they required.

“This is a tough time, and the pain and anguish [affected farmers] are going to go through is really hideous,” she said. “And we have to support them as neighbours, community members, farmers, friends.”

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