A Brecon beef farmer who faces six monthly TB testing if plans to further tighten disease controls in cattle go ahead in Wales is pleading with the government to tackle the disease in wildlife.
Trevor Walters farms less than 20 miles from the border with England, a country where badger culling is part of the approach to TB eradication.
Under Welsh government proposals to “refresh” its TB eradication programme, Mr Walters’ farm would be classed as “High Risk”. As such it would be subject to tighter controls, including twice yearly cattle testing.
Although the government has suggested it may consider limited badger culling on 60 Welsh farms that have had a TB breakdown for more than 10 years, Mr Walters insisted this doesn’t go far enough.
“How can farmers be expected to go along with new rules that would have huge financial implications for their business, for the welfare of their animals and for their own safety when nothing is being about the infected badgers on their farms?
“It is time to stop ignoring this disease reservoir and for our politicians to take a braver approach as has been the case in England.”
Mr Walters runs a herd of 70 suckler cows and he also fattens 100 stores. In the past 10 years, he has had three TB breakdowns in the herd.
It is time to stop ignoring this disease reservoir and for our politicians to take a braver approach as has been the case in England Trevor Walters, beef farmer
He has huge concerns about the prospect of six-monthly cattle testing.
“Every time cattle are handled and face a needle they become frightened and it becomes very dangerous for the people handling them.’’
Mr Walters’ concerns are shared by the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW).
In its response to the government consultation, which closed on January 10, the union rejected proposals to split Wales into five regions dictated by TB levels.
Instead, it wants to see “meaningful controls” which address the transmission of TB from badgers to cattle.
The government consultation paper itself points out the level of disease found in badgers in Wales is 6.6%.
This compares with 0.4% in cattle.
FUW TB spokesman Brian Walters said the proposal to split Wales into five TB regions would only be acceptable if badger numbers were reduced in these areas.
New Zealand approach
The union would like a New Zealand-style approach to disease eradication, which it describes as a “genuine partnership” between government and farmers.
New Zealand reduced TB dramatically through a comprehensive cull of possum, the country’s equivalent of the badger as the disease wildlife vector.
“Without that commitment by Welsh politicians we will never achieve the success seen in New Zealand, Australia and other countries which have implemented successful eradication programmes by tackling the disease in both cattle and wildlife,” said Mr Walters.
The Welsh government is considering responses to the consultation and is expected to announce details of the new eradication programme before April.