Stop the on-farm slaughter of in-calf TB-positive cows plea

Fresh calls have been made for the Welsh government to end the on-farm slaughter of in-calf animals who test positive for bovine TB, with one farmer describing allowing an unborn calf slowly suffocating inside its dead mother as “horrible’’.

Dairy farmer Simon Davies made a direct plea to the rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths and first minister Mark Drakeford during NFU Cymru talks at the Pembrokeshire County Show last week.

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Mr Davies said the practice of allowing an unborn calf to slowly die inside the cow after she had been slaughtered was putting an “enormous mental strain” on farmers. 

“It’s not an easy topic to discuss, but seeing the calf trying to survive inside the womb is absolutely horrible,” said Mr Davies, who is NFU Cymru county chairman in Pembrokeshire and whose herd has just been given the all-clear after a TB breakdown.

“It really is time that this practice ended, it doesn’t just affect the farmer, but the whole family.”


Mr Davies is calling for measures that allow an in-calf animal to “calve with dignity” before she is removed from the herd.

That animal would have to be isolated, but that would be workable on most farms, he rationalised.

The government has said it is currently considering the in-calf cow and heifer slaughter guidance it issues for TB eradication.

Mr Davies’ comments echoed calls by Welsh Conservative Sennedd member Samuel Kurtz who described the current treatment of pregnant TB reactors as “horrific”.

Pilot project

Meanwhile, a group of 15 farmers are voluntarily taking take part in a new pilot project that will use historic TB skin test data to develop better management protocols to manage “near misses” out of their herd in a bid to lower their disease rates.

The Pembrokeshire Pilot will use similar strategies to those farmers have for managing Johne’s disease, arming them with a “risk list” for every animal in their herd.

They will make decisions ranging from breeding policy to culling, based on data provided by the programme.

The programme is owned by Iechyd Da, a consortium of veterinary practices in South Wales delivering veterinary services, such as TB testing, and is developed in conjunction with MV Diagnostics.

Critically, these decisions will be under the farmer’s control in conjunction with their private vet.

In addition, these farms will also be trialling a new enhanced biosecurity app developed by Iechyd Da that will enable farmers to score the impact and risk of the herd management actions they are considering.

The 15 farmers will get match funding for the work involved in delivering the project on their farms, including regular on-farm engagement with a private vet to provide advice and veterinary oversight of biosecurity practices. 

The ambition is to officially regain TB-free status for those currently under long-term restrictions.