Cattle farmers must take a tougher approach to controlling bovine TB or the disease will continue to spread to new areas, a panel of vets has warned.

The panel convened at a crisis meeting on bovine TB organised by vet practice Lambert, Leonard and May at Myerscough College, Lancashire, on 10 April.

Cases of the disease in the county are rising and the vets issued a wake up call telling the audience that farmers needed to take more responsibility to check the disease status of animals when buying and selling.

The vets added that the true risk of inconclusive reactors was being ignored.

Leaving any inconclusive reactors on farm was a danger and could have devastating consequences for cattle producers, they said, and called for reactors to be iremoved from holdings immediately.

The tough line triggered a heated debate on how farmers and vets had to adopt a new mind-set if there was to be any hope of halting the spread of TB northwards.

More on bovine TB in cattle

Den Leonard, senior partner in Lambert, Leonard and May, said: “Cattle farmers as an industry have got to face the true horrors of this disease.

“There has to be a committed and concerted effort to stop the spread. The government will not bring in any legislation that is going to help. There is no short-cut, no easy way. This disease has to be tackled by farmers and vets.”

Mr Leonard stressed there had to be an end to the massive amount of mis-information appearing in the media concerning badger-culling and the use of vaccination to control the disease. “So many things that are absolutely untrue and scientifically unfounded are stated in the media and addressed to the public about TB,” he said.

The meeting heard farmers express some support for more testing in areas where the disease was on the rise. There was also deep concern expressed about the irresponsible actions of farmers when potentially infected cattle were “off-loaded” with little awareness of the effect of their actions in terms of spreading the disease.

Cheshire farmer Phil Latham who has been battling with TB in his own herd, said the threat of further spread was increasing because “the risky cattle go into the hands of risky farmers”.

“We need to have mandatory annual TB testing for all herds. I think with the current four-year parish testing we are just a long way off tracking the disease.”