Welsh farmers may face tough penalties for TB rule breaches

Cattle and dairy farmers in Wales will be paid no more than £15,000 for an animal lost to bovine TB, whatever its commercial value, under new proposals being considered.

The Welsh government insists the cap is “sensible’’ and is fair to both the farmer and the taxpayer.

It has launched a consultation on proposed changes to the compensation structure and these include heavy penalties for farmers who jeopardise the TB eradication programme.

See also: Welsh TB cattle movement rules explained

Currently farmers can lose up to 95% of their compensation payments if they fail to test their animals, but the government wants to extend this to those who move any animal that is under movement restrictions without a licence. This rule will also apply if an animal has been allowed to stray.

Farmers would also jeopardise their payments if they interfere with a TB test or feed unpasteurised milk from a reactor animal to another animal without it being suitably treated.

Heavier penalties could apply if the farmer has previously breached a TB regulation.

There will also be reduced compensation for farmers who deliberately slow down the process of removing animals earmarked for slaughter from their farms.

“In the vast majority of cases cattle are removed from the farm within 10 working days. However, in some cases, a herd owner has not co-operated with the valuation and/or removal of an animal, which has then directly resulted in its removal from the farm being unnecessarily delayed for longer than 10 working days from the day the animal is identified as being infected,’’ the government states in the consultation.

“We want to reduce compensation in these circumstances because we feel that it is an unacceptable disease risk that can result in more animals becoming infected.’’

The new rules would also give the Welsh government power to re-assess the market value of a pregnant animal if at post-mortem she is found not to be in calf.

Farmers who remove slurry or manure from a restricted farm without approval will also face compensation penalties and even criminal action. 

Wales’ deputy farm minister Rebecca Evans has given the industry until 6 November to respond to the consultation, which can be viewed on the Welsh government website.

 “We need a compensation system that encourages cattle keepers to play their part in eradicating this disease from Wales, so I am now consulting on introducing revised plans that would penalise cattle keepers who undertake risky practices, such as hiding or failing to present cattle for testing, valuation or removal, which can contribute to the spread of TB,’’ she said.