The Welsh Assembly has begun a one-off testing programme for bovine tuberculosis in all cattle herds in Wales.

The test will cover 3500 herds and was set out in the assembly’s £27m TB eradication programme, which was announced on 23 September. All cattle over 42 days old will be tested under the programme, TB Health Check Wales. The tests will conclude in 15 months’ time on 31 December 2009.

An assembly spokesman said the programme would help to achieve a more detailed understanding of the current level and location of bovine TB across Wales, so informed decisions could be made.

Tests that are already due within this period will be included in the programme. Rural affairs minister Elin Jones said: “This is a considerable piece of work and means that within 15 months we will be testing herds that would normally take four years to test.

“We know where there are areas with high levels of disease, but it is important to have an accurate disease picture across the whole of Wales.

“It will be particularly interesting and valuable to see the results for North Wales, an area considered less affected by TB. If this proves to be the case, we can then continue with efforts to keep it that way.”

The spokesman added: “I am grateful for the co-operation of farmers and vets in this exercise. TB Health Check Wales provides a real opportunity to identify the disease earlier.”