More than 3,000 cows were culled because of bovine TB in January – almost a 25% rise on the same time last year.

DEFRA figures showed 3,215 cattle were slaughtered across the UK in January, equivalent to an increase of 24.2% on January 2012.

And despite the introduction of a badger vaccination programme in Wales last year, the TB epidemic has worsened considerably.

The number of cattle compulsorily slaughtered in Wales was 819 in January, compared with 419 for the same period in 2012 – an increase of 95.4%.

The official TB statistics, released on Wednesday (19 April), made grim reading for dairy farmers, showing a 10% increase in cattle lost to the disease for the whole of the UK from 2011 to 2012.

More than 38,000 cattle have now been compulsorily slaughtered because of TB in Britain in 2012, including more than 28,000 in England alone.

NFU vice-president Adam Quinney said the figures made “awful reading” for farmers battling TB on their farms.

“I am a cattle farmer and I know these numbers have increased despite additional cattle controls, more pre-movement testing and stricter on-farm biosecurity measures that were introduced in July last year,” he added.

Mr Quinney, who farms livestock at Sambourne, near Redditch, is adamant that a cull of badgers, a known reservoir of the disease, will help tackle bovine TB.

“We are playing our part in solving this terrible disease, but I remain convinced by the research, both here and abroad, that shows wildlife management is essential if we are to successfully tackle TB.”

Farm minister David Heath said: “Sadly bovine TB continues to spread, leading to the slaughter of thousands of cattle each month and misery for dairy farmers. We must do everything we can to tackle this disease in cattle and wildlife.”

From January 2008 to January 2013, the total number of cattle culled owing to TB was 186,664, according to DEFRA.

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DEFRA figures reveal rise in bovine TB