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By ROBYN BRISTOW

Dealing with Mycoplasma boviswas not the way Cheviot couple Richard and Jane Maxwell wanted to end their farming careers.

“It is our lifetimes’ work we are dealing with,” Jane says.

The couple had sold their bull beef rearing property when an animal on the property tested positive for the disease before takeover date.

While the sale is to go ahead, the emotionally charged environment that has surrounded the discovery of Mycoplasma bovis has made the last few months difficult for the Maxwells, who have farmed the 670-hectare property since 1983.

Before that, it it had been the family farm.

Richard and Jane decided to buy in calves because they had made the decision to sell and had a lot of grass to use after three years of drought.

The drought had taken its toll, with the couple sustaining significant losses.

A short-term decision was made to raise 500 calves under contract which were sourced from three outlets, with plans to on-sell them to four North Island properties. She says when the date rolled round, because the property had become a “property of enquiry”, they elected not to ship them north.

Jane says no-one wants to be in the position they found themselves when a positive test came back on an animal, but she believes they acted ethically and responsibly throughout.

“We were told there was nothing preventing us sending our calves away because the
property was not restricted in any way, but we decided ethically to keep the stock until the enquiry was completed.

“We are victims, but we are all victims. We now have to work together as an industry
because I believe we now have the facts in front of us to give us a real chance of eradicating
it (Mycoplasma bovis),” she says.

The Maxwells had planned to sell all their stock by June 1.

However, they have now all gone to slaughter and the farm is in quarantine for 60 days.

“We have always been a trading operation, not a breeding one,” Jane says.

The only consolation was it was not as difficult for them as it was for those who had put a
lifetime’s worth of breeding into their stock, only to watch as they headed out the gate to
slaughter because of a positive test for the disease.

Jane has nothing but praise for staff from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

“They have been magnificent through this difficult time. I cannot fault the response from MPI personally and its people on the ground.”

Mycoplasma bovis had been a learning curve for everyone and Jane believes everyone is
“trying their best” to control and eradicate it.