By 2010 the number of cattle slaughtered in an attempt to control bovine tuberculosis may have risen from the current level of 23,000/year to 66,000/year, according to government predictions.

Consequently the bill for compensation and testing will leap from 90m/year to 145m/year.

The prediction was revealed on Tuesday (6 December) during a debate on the disease, by Geoffrey Cox, Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon.

During the debate, which involved seven other Tory MPs, two Liberal Democrat MPs and junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw, MPs discussed the effect of a TB breakdown on a farming business and the feelings of desperation suffered by many of the farmers concerned.

Mr Bradshaw also reaffirmed the government’s intention to make an interim announcement on the issue before Parliament’s
Christmas recess.

It is expected to cover the introduction of compulsory pre-movement testing of all cattle aged over 12 months and the introduction of a category based system for assigning compensation values of slaughtered animals.

The minister also confirmed that the announcement, likely to be made on the 12, 16 or 20 December, will address the use of a culling policy as a control measure.

TB statistics published by DEFRA on Tuesday reveal a continued increase in the number of cattle slaughtered due to the disease.

During October, 2425 animals were slaughtered, bringing the running total for 2005 to 25,757, up 37% on the same 10-month period last year.