Welsh unions welcome on-farm TB slaughter rule changes

Heavily in-calf cows that test positive for bovine TB will no longer have to be slaughtered on farm in Wales. 

Farmers will be able to choose to delay the removal of infected cows or heifers that are in the last 60 days of pregnancy, or have given birth in the previous seven days, subject to biosecurity conditions to protect other cattle in the herd. 

Alongside this, there will be the option to delay reactor removal if the animal is very close to the end of a drug withdrawal period, on a case-by-case basis.

See also: New Welsh bovine TB advisory group ‘a positive step forward’

Farming families in Wales, already under emotional and financial pressure from TB breakdowns in cattle, have been reduced to tears due to the harsh and harrowing experience of watching cattle being put down in their farmyards.

The main reasons heavily in-calf TB-infected cattle previously had to be slaughtered on farm were because they were not able to travel on welfare grounds, or were under medicine withdrawal periods. 

Welsh rural affairs secretary Huw Irranca-Davies has accepted in full the recommendations presented to him by the newly established Technical Advisory Group on a suite of measures that will provide flexibility for the on-farm slaughter of cattle with bovine TB.

The two Welsh farming unions, NFU Cymru and the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), have welcomed the changes to policy announced by the Welsh government.

But both said the Labour administration must go further to tackle the disease.

Union reaction

NFU Cymru TB Focus Group chairman Roger Lewis said: “The policy changes announced by the cabinet secretary are welcome, but we must recognise the devastating impact this dreadful disease continues to have.

“On-farm slaughter is only part of the picture. In Wales, we continue to see around 10,000 cattle slaughtered annually because of bovine TB and, in 2023, we saw more farms operating under TB restrictions and more new breakdowns than in the previous year.”

FUW deputy president Dai Miles also welcomed the announcement, but said the root cause of the “horrors of on-farm slaughter” continues to be the “abysmal track record of a longstanding, ineffective TB eradication programme in Wales”.