The group met for the first time this week, with DairyNZ's Southland regional leader, Richard Kyte, chairing the meeting. The group includes representatives from Southland veterinary practices, Federated Farmers, Beef+Lamb NZ and PGG Wrightson Seeds. It also has specialist advisors on veterinary pathology and plant science.
"Evidence and science-based information is crucial and will be the focus of this group. Gathering this information is a work in progress and will involve all parties," says Richard.
"Work is currently being carried out on measuring and testing some crops. It is challenging because measuring and testing for different compounds in these swede crops is not straightforward. We are working with scientists to understand this. It will take some time for this analysis to come through, possibly months, and it may not be conclusive.
"We'll be working together on clear and agreed advice to farmers. We know farmers are looking for help with decisions on what to do right now and for next season's crops," he says. Further farmer advisories will be issued within the next seven days.
DairyNZ is combining with the parties involved in the working group to extend the reach of its farmer survey on the issue. "The survey work is critical in understanding the problem. So far we've had more than 330 responses. Everyone has agreed to help us ensure as many farmers as possible reply to our four quick email questions.
"We can then use that information to follow up with more detailed farmer interviews and data-gathering," says Richard. Farmers can go here to fill out the survey which will remain open for replies until Friday September 19.