The 500 yearling cattle, advertised as being in the sale two weeks in advance, made up a significant chunk of the yarding.
But there was an air of consternation on the morning of the sale when they were marched from their pens just an hour before the sale and trucked home.
No one was more shocked than vendor, Fairlie farmer Regan O’Leary.
“It sure came as a bit of a shock.
“I was on the way up to see them sold when I got the call from the Ministry of Primary Industries.
“It was 8.45am. They told me they were putting me under Notice of Direction.
“You can imagine how I felt. I didn’t want to even face up at the sale. My credibility had gone right out the back door.”
O’Leary called his livestock agent and the trucking company to arrange for the cattle to be returned to his farm.
“The transport company and the agents, everybody, were really good. I just wanted to stay away. It’s like I had done something really wrong.
“The transport company even pulled trucks in from Oamaru to cart them out.”
The timing was more than just unfortunate, made worse by the fact when O’Leary did his own homework on the identified trace he found the herd he’s supposedly traced to was culled in September.
“That’s got to go back three to four months. They’ve just caught up with me now – in December.”
O’Leary is now faced with selling his lambs in the store market before Christmas so he can feed the 500 cattle while he awaits the results of testing.
“We all know the price of lambs so I’m going to lose on that and I’ll be break-feeding wheat crop to the cattle so that won’t make harvest.
“It surely changes the whole farming operation just like that, there’s no time to plan.”
O’Leary said his biggest issue is the follow-up tracing.
It’s way too long to be effective in the eradication plan.
Gwyn said there’s no suggestion anyone has done anything wrong or that anything has gone wrong.
Any Notice of Direction is going to be served at a point in time.
“In this instance, unfortunately, that point in time was when the cattle were at the sale yards.
“The NoD was not issued because of where the animals were or because they were about to be sold but because we became aware of a risk event related to this farm – the timing is coincidental,” Gwyn said.
“The farmer took the entirely appropriate and commendable step of withdrawing them from sale and returning the cattle to his property.
“These animals are not known infected animals – 90% of management groups placed under a NoD are found to not be infected.”
Gwyn said from a disease control point of view the cattle have not mixed with the other cattle at the yards.
“The exposure that occurs at a yards is not direct or prolonged and is of exceptionally low risk if these cattle are found to be infected.
“If it eventuated that they are infected we would consider the risk of possible exposure to the other cattle at the sale that day and would trace them through the Nait records, which, as required, should show what cattle were at the yards and where they have moved on to,” Gwyn said.