The cost of TB to our farming industry

In New Zealand, TB could have a devastating impact on our farmers, our rural communities, and our valuable export industry.

A case of TB in a cattle or deer herd can cause financial difficulties for a farming business, even when only a few animals are infected. The resulting restrictions on a farmer’s ability to sell or move their livestock can severely affect their income.

Without effective TB control, we'd have a high number of infected herds and animals in NZ. We'd see significant livestock and production losses, and TB disease levels could reach a point where they'd pose a risk to our overseas trade in beef, dairy and venison products.

Benefits of the TBfree programme

We compared the costs and outcomes of the TBfree programme against the cost of a 'no control' situation, where we'd see an increase in the number of TB infected herds around the country. We found that the TBfree programme created some real economic and social benefits for our farming industry, including:

  • an improvement in the social, financial and economic options for rural landowners
  • a reduction in the on-farm operational costs for managing infected herds
  • protection against lost livestock production and value for the farming industry
  • security for our overseas export market in beef, dairy and deer products
  • protection of human health.

Biodiversity benefits of the TBfree programme

The pest control work we do as part of the TBfree programme also has some important biodiversity benefits, particularly for the health of our native environment and ecosystems.

Possums eat native plants, and they can kill large trees simply by browsing for food. Their browsing has driven some species — like mistletoe — almost to extinction.

Possums are also a major predator of our native birds, preying on eggs and chicks. By keeping possum numbers low, our native wildlife and bush get a chance to thrive. Our pest control operations also kill rats, ferrets and stoats, which often scavenge on poisoned possum carcasses. This gives our native birds a breeding window, which is crucial to their chicks' survival.

We often work alongside the Department of Conservation to achieve the greatest benefits from our pest control work.