Until recently New Zealand was one of two countries that did not have cattle infected by the Mycoplasma bovis cattle disease. M bovis is now this country’s most expensive biosecurity incursion. It reportedly appeared in Southland in late 2015 and has now been detected in Canterbury, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa and Waikato. Many of our readers living in rural areas are impacted directly or indirectly by the stresses and uncertainties M bovis is creating.
How the outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis is interconnected with our Catholic faith
Fr Tom Lawn
WelCom contacted me about impacts of the Mycoplasma bovis incursion is having on our farming communities and about a pastoral response to the needs of people. So true to my facility to share responsibility I in turn called people who are farmers or who support the farming community and industry. Three reflections have been prepared and I offer a context in which to read those reflections.
As Christians we can name this disease as an oppressive reality; it makes animals sick and it can create a social environment that makes it difficult for families and communities to support and care for one another. When we are being oppressed we need to open our hearts and minds to Resurrection, victory over oppressive power.
Resurrection puts hope into our hearts, the darkness is pierced by light, no matter what trial is having to be endured, somehow life and love will be the final victors.
A few weeks ago, at Sunday Mass we listened to 2Cor 4:13-5:1. St Paul was teaching us that our Lord Jesus’ Resurrection changes everything. We are destined for eternal life and everything in this life takes meaning from that.
So no matter how destructive and bleak this crisis is for those caught up in it – and we all are really – no matter how hurt and lost people feel as they battle this crisis, our Faith, God’s gift to us, tells us we can bring food from it. We can find the way of love, peace and the fullness of life.
Creator God, source of love and life, grant hope, wisdom and courage to those who farm and those who serve them. Keep them safe in this time of turmoil. Help them to practice what is best for our environment, our communities, our country. We can make this prayer through Christ our Lord.
PS. For those who may want to consult further, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has some wisdom that I think can give us a sideways look at what’s at stake. Paragraphs 2418, 1501, and 2288.
Fr Tom Lawn is the Assistant Priest, Catholic Parish of New Plymonth.
Interconnecting to our Catholic faith
Ruth and Michael Prankerd
For a dairy herd owner, the outbreak of M bovis late last year in our neighbourhood is just another of many massive challenges which have confronted us in the last three years. Adding fuel to the fear is MPI’s time-consuming, decision-making process. The combination of fear and ongoing uncertainty has brought out some ugliness in people who are already worn down from the dairy downturn, ongoing bank pressures and the recent drought. Traits such as blame and rumour-telling are rife in our community, which would otherwise be a fairly normal and happy place to interact.
This is the reason we must combat the risk of fragmentation within our community by being true to the values instilled in us by our Catholic faith. We must support one another, show empathy and seek to understand others’ points of view, and treat others as we would want to be treated. A friendly smile, a sympathetic ear or a shared meal between friends to discuss how we can support one another in these tumultuous times are all things we need to continue to do to support one another and keep the faith we will need to get through and overcome this huge challenge to our industry.
Ruth and Michael Prankerd are herd-owning sharemilkers in Winton, Central Southland.
Faith and trust in God
Mycoplasma bovis has been dominating the news lately as we are told of the risks it poses to our dairy and beef industries. My wife and I own two dairy farms, just south of New Plymouth in an equity partnership. Our life savings are invested in this business so we follow developments regarding M bovis with close interest.
We have been asked to share about our view of this disease and the risk it poses to our lives and our family. There is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding M bovis and its effect. There have been estimates made of the cost of the disease to our agricultural industries, both to attempt to eliminate and failing that to control it.
Authorities have announced they believe it is possible to erradicate the disease and will attempt to do so. However, we don’t know what the outcomes will be. For some unfortunate people their herds have been destroyed. Although we are told they will be compensated for the stock and for the loss of income from the government, for these people the loss would be soul destroying. Like most people in New Zealand our heart goes out to these farmers at this difficult time. As a dairy farmer it has be very heartening to see the outflow of support from the New Zealand public for these people and for the dairy industry as a whole.
As an industry, we have been criticised by various sectors of society for different reasons. This has had a big effect on people’s moral and mental wellbeing within the dairy industry. To feel the support from the government and mainstream New Zealand in this uncertain time has been very welcomed. We thank everyone greatly for their prayers and support.
As mentioned, we just don’t know the outcome of M bovis. As farmers we face many risks to our livelihoods from the weather, pests, disease, market prices and financial pressures. M bovis represents one of these many risks to our way of life. Many of these factors are outside of our control. We need to have a strong belief in what we are doing. At its most basic level we believe farming to be the use of God-given, natural resources to make food that feeds God’s people. At our core as Catholics is our faith and trust in God. We can only really focus on what we can control and understand and accept the things we can’t. This is the same sentiment expressed in the serenity prayer that we all know so well.
“God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.”
Kind words and moral support good medicine
The Mycoplasma bovis disease hangs like a big, black cloud over our dairy industry. While it is not known to be in our province of Taranaki at this time, we know how devastating it has been for those families affected. Not just herd owners, but also their staff, because if no milk is going out to the factory then there is no income.
Once the herd has been slaughtered, the farm has to be kept clean of stock for several months before a new herd can be put back on that property. The disease affects the cows with chronic incurable mastitis, severe lameness, arthritis, pneumonia and late-term abortions. Just about the perfect storm and not survivable by infected cows.
Support for those operating infected farms is critical. It is the mental anguish that will hurt the most. For many it sees a life time’s work sent to the slaughter, which must be debilitating and really stressful. This comes on top of general criticism of the dairy industry in recent times, seemingly responsible to global warming and other social issues.
Kind words, moral support is good medicine to any in stressful situations, irrespective of the reasons and positions.
Paul Bourke is a parishioner and farmer in Opunake, who has done a lot to help set up support groups for farmers dealing with mental illness.