Dairy cows out at grass© Tim Scrivener

A Welsh government proposal to start targeted badger removal is needed for herds with persistent outbreaks of TB, a new national assembly report has recommended.

Ministers are looking at new ways to tackle TB in Wales, including the possibility of a targeted cull of badgers near to the 50-60 herds that have persistent outbreaks of TB and where other measures have proven to be ineffective.

The Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee recommends a regional approach to tackling TB, which would categorise parts of the country into high-, medium- and low-risk areas, with different restrictions for each grade.

See also: Welsh farmer pleads for action on bovine TB

However, the committee warned that any badger culling policy “must be scientifically monitored and reviewed to make sure it is working; if not, the practice needs to be stopped or changed”.

It added: “The evidence gathered must also be made available for independent review.”

Surveillance testing of cattle herds and risk-based trading, which involves buyers and sellers sharing details about the TB status of cattle, should be among the options considered.

The committee also wants to see a target date set for when Wales will be TB free. Unlike Ireland, New Zealand and England – which has a 25-year TB eradication strategy – the Welsh government has not set a timetable for TB eradication.

‘Frustrating problem’

The committee’s interim chairwoman, Jenny Rathbone, said: “The committee has examined the strategies being used in this country and across the world and we need to beat the disease based on the best evidence of what works to tackle the bovine TB problem in Wales.

“Bovine TB is an expensive, tenacious and frustrating problem for the farming community in Wales.”

Ms Rathbone said members recognised the level of co-operation to achieve a TB-free status in Wales “is considerable”.

But she added: “We concluded that a refreshed strategy is needed, which encompasses a regional approach to eradicating TB, movement restrictions on infected herds and risk-based trading among other options.

“We also need to keep a close eye on the management of larger dairy herds and any link with the slurry they make.”

‘Secure funding’

The committee wants the Welsh government to ensure that current funding received from the EU for TB testing is guaranteed after Brexit.

The level of compensation handed to farmers whose herds are destroyed by TB was also discussed. The Welsh government has proposed reducing the maximum amount it pays in compensation from £15,000 to £5,000.

The report will be considered by the Welsh government, which will issue a statement on its updated approach to eradicating TB before the summer recess.