The Welsh government has announced a further tightening of cattle movement restrictions in an attempt to halt the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

From 1 April there will be two key amendments to current pre-movement testing exemptions.

In future, cattle which don’t meet these testing requirements can only be returned to their original holding and not to any other holding as was the case previously.

There is also a change to the rules relating to cattle that graze common land. Cattle will no longer be allowed to travel between farms that share common rights. The exemption will apply only to cattle travelling between their registered holding and a common where their owner has rights of grazing.

These two changes effectively close existing loopholes and are understood to be broadly welcomed by the farming unions.

Environment minister John Griffiths also announced that a new dedicated TB epidemiologist would be appointed in April to focus on specific areas or clusters of disease.

And in common with England, approved quarantine units (AQUs) will be phased out. This will end the movement of clean calves from TB breakdown farms to the market these units.

“We will work closely with operators to begin closing down the two existing AQUs with a view to completing the process by the end of 2013,” said Mr Griffiths.

He believes a tightening of movement restrictions are necessary to deliver a higher level of protection to cattle against bovine TB.

Farmers dealing with breakdowns have been promised more advice and support and this could include involving private vets more in the process.

During the year ending in October 2012, there were over 1,100 new herd incidents in Wales and over 9,000 cattle were slaughtered. In the same period, the Welsh government paid out almost £17m in compensation.

Mr Griffiths, who delivered his future strategy at a plenary session of the Welsh government, referred to the death of a west Wales dairy farmer, who died last week following a bull attack while testing his herd for TB. “We rely on the farming community for their continued support in carrying out TB testing and am conscious that this does come with some risk. It was with great sadness that I learnt of the tragic incident last week where a farmer was killed during a TB test on his farm. On behalf of the Welsh government, I offer my sincere condolences to his family,” he said.

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