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Van Leeuwen owner awaits M.bovis compo

Van Leeuwen owner awaits M.bovis compo, says MPI like a 'slow machine'

By Rebecca Howard

April 10 (BusinessDesk) - Aad Van Leeuwen is still waiting for compensation from the Ministry for Primary Industries more than nine months after he reported the outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis in his South Canterbury herds.

"There was an advance made a couple of months ago covering barely 20 percent of all the stock but the remaining more than 80 percent has not arrived yet and there are continuous questions coming (from MPI) that have all been answered," the owner of Van Leeuwen Dairy Group told BusinessDesk. Compensation for the stock alone is around $3 million and doesn't include anything else such as milk loss, he said.

MPI estimates the outbreak could cost about $95 million in tracking and tracing the spread of the disease and paying compensation to farmers.

According to Van Leeuwen, dealing with MPI is like dealing with "a bit slow machine" and while "under the compensation act you are never supposed to be worse off, I can tell you we are a damn sight worse off."

He first reported the outbreak in July last year but said the bacterial cattle disease didn’t originate on his farms. The incurable disease - which has been present in many other markets for decades - poses no food safety risk but can hit cattle hard causing udder infection, abortion, pneumonia, and arthritis. MPI initially culled around 4,800 cattle on seven farms - the majority belonging Van Leeuwen - but then halted the culling to carry out extensive testing.

The latest data from MPI show 28 infected properties across the country. Last week it ordered the culling of all cattle on those properties - 22,300 animals - describing it as a critical measure to control the spread of the disease.

Van Leeuwen, who owns the company with his wife, said their herd is now clean and he is fighting to get so-called "restricted place notices" removed as they are hampering his operation. The notice "prohibits all unauthorised movements of farm stock and other risk goods onto and off the property" and requires a permit for any movement of cattle, according to MPI.

"It's a very difficult environment," he said, adding that "we've been severely tested, ten times harder than the nation has been tested, nothing has been found."

While MPI is still focused on eradication, Van Leeuwen said it's impossible. "It's virtually impossible to catch up with and they don't even know the cause, where it came from," he said. The recent "pathways report will tell you they have no idea," he said.

The heavily redacted Pathways Report published by MPI said there are seven potential introduction pathways including imported live cattle, imported frozen semen, imported embryos, imported feed, imported veterinary medicines and biological products, imported used farm equipment and other imported live animals. It did not specify which was the probable cause but said "no high-risk pathway for introduction of M. bovis has been identified but rather a group of pathways posing a continuous but non-negligible, very low to low risk."

According to Van Leeuwen, a farm is cleared if less than 5 percent of animals are infected in the case of dairy farms and less than 10 percent in the case of beef farms. As a result, potentially every herd in New Zealand could have a handful of infected animals. "How can you stop it," he asked.

MPI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(BusinessDesk)

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