TBfree has end goal in sight

Date 25 March 2019

TBfree has end goal in sight

Beyond the long view over rolling hill country above Kawhia Harbour on the Waikato coast Chris Irons can see the future.

“I am looking forward to the day when risk-based testing will mean we no longer have to test our herd for TB,” he says.

Like most others in the northern half of the North Island Irons’ properties have a disease control area status of surveillance, meaning the work of the TBfree programme has successfully eradicated bovine tuberculosis but keeps an eye on livestock to ensure the area remains clear. 

“In our area we TB test our herd once every three years,” he says.

Apart from being a good distance from areas of vector risk, where possums can carry TB infection between wildlife and livestock, the risk is further reduced by farm management.

“Ninety-nine per cent of our animals go straight to slaughter,” he said.

Irons farms with his partner Debbie Hastie at Te Waitere, between Taharoa and Kawhia, where they run Angus and South Devon beef cattle and 1600 Perendale sheep on 440 hectares of rolling to steep land.

Among the many hats he wears – for Federated Farmers, among others – Irons is chairman of his region’s Ospri TB committee and says the programme is getting to a crucial stage where it’s important to keep progressing towards the eradication goals of freedom from disease in livestock by 2026 and from wildlife by 2040. 

“We have had so much investment into the TBfree programme we cannot stop now. 

“We are at the pointy end and we’re just about there.

“We don’t want to waste the investment we have already put to it or let the disease back in to areas that have been cleared.” 

Day-to-day farming practices are designed to take the stress out of life for animals and for farmers and an ear-tagging day with Irons’ calves demonstrates one of the stress-savers. 

The way he and Debbie use NAIT tags and visual tags to advantage on their farm is to tag male calves with even numbers and females with odd numbers. The males have a visual tag in the right ear and the females in the left ear. 

“That makes it easier when the stock is in the yards and when we’re uploading the information into Nait,” Irons said.

MORE:

Ospri’s TBfree programme disease control areas are reviewed on March 1 every year. To check your area’s status visit the interactive map at www.ospri.co.nz/dcamap

Chris Irons 600

Beef farmer and Waikato TB chair Chris Irons: 'We're at the pointy end.'