‘Anger and frustration’ over spread of bovine TB in Wales

Farm leaders have called on the Welsh government to take “decisive action” to eradicate bovine TB.

NFU Cymru said there was much “anger and frustration” over the government’s failing TB policy.

The union hit out as farmers gathered on the opening day of the Pembrokeshire County Show on Tuesday (16 August).

See also: Video – Welsh farmers have their say on bovine TB controls

Figures revealed by the Welsh government showed in the past 12 months to May 2016, 8,973 cattle were slaughtered in Wales due to bovine TB – a 37% year-on-year increase.

The Welsh government abandoned its badger vaccination programme last December due to a shortage of vaccine.

In Pembrokeshire alone, 2,652 cattle were slaughtered in the 12 months to May 2016 – a staggering 61% increase.

However, the number of new herd incidents in Wales decreased by 17% over the same period.

Speaking at the show, NFU Cymru president Stephen James said cattle farmers were “continuing to play their part” in bearing down on the disease by adhering to stringent cattle movement and testing controls.

But he emphasised that a TB eradication plan must also include a strategy for dealing with the disease reservoir in wildlife, in areas where it is endemic.

“We now look to this new Welsh government to look again at the current TB strategy,” added Mr James.

“If we are to eradicate bovine TB in Wales then this government has to support the implementation of a policy that will actively remove the disease from the wildlife population in areas of Wales where both cattle and badgers are suffering.”

‘Refreshed’ TB programme

The Welsh government attributed the rising trend in animals slaughtered is attributable to increased numbers of reactors disclosed in established breakdowns, not new incidents.

“Much of this is due to an increase in the use of the gamma-interferon test for TB, a more sensitive test which is used strategically in recurrent and persistent breakdowns,” said a spokesman.

But Welsh farm minister Lesley Griffiths would consider options for a “refreshed” TB programme over the coming weeks, added the spokesman.

“As part of that, she will be considering the wildlife issue alongside new cattle and biosecurity measures.

“It is clear from the epidemiological evidence presented to date that we should be exploring a more targeted approach at farm and area level.”