The Welsh Assembly Government is working on plans to link compensation paid on bovine TB reactors to good bio-security.

While officials will not reveal details, they admit they are looking at options that encourage farmers to fulfil their responsibilities and comply with legal and best-practice requirements.

The move was announced in an update on the progress of the assembly’s £27m TB eradication programme, which also reported that changes already introduced had reduced the problem of over-compensation.

Elin Jones, assembly rural affairs minister, said there was still “unswerving commitment to the eradication of bovine TB in Wales”.

Badger two

New health checks would begin on October 1 and comparative skin tests would be carried out on all cattle over 42 days old over the following 15 months.

“To date, Wales is the only area of the UK that has taken this decisive action as part of a meticulous, step by step campaign constructed in Wales to remove this damaging and costly disease,” she said.

Efforts were already underway to speed the removal of reactors from farms and to take action when the 20 day target was not met.

Ms Jones also announced the establishment of three new regional TB eradication boards to deliver the programme in ways that took account of regional and local conditions.

Despite strong opposition action from some badger groups and the threat of legal action, the assembly was still planning to authorise a limited badger cull in one pilot area.

Ecological reviews, epidemiological assessments and examination of the ethical, practical and legal issues involved were underway.

The progress report said: “The Government is, of course, subject to a range of legal obligations.

“For this reason it is crucial that before any final decision is taken the rural affairs minister is satisfied that the proposals are fully consistent with the law.”

The minister is expected be in a position to make a decision in the New Year.