TB cost to rocket as Krebs study runs

21 June 1999

TB cost to rocket as Krebs study runs

Johann Tasker

CATTLE tuberculosis will have cost Britain a massive £830 million before a government study into the disease is completed, claims a new report out today (Monday).

If current trends continue, the number of farms affected by bovine TB will have risen to 4000 a year by 2006, says the National Farmers Union study.

That would bring the TB-related bill to almost £200m a year since Professor John Krebs started his analysis of the disease in 1996, warned NFU president Ben Gill.

The cumulative cost of TB will have risen to £830m by the end of the trial period in 2006 if the current 23% annual increase in the disease continues, he claimed.

“These figures show the stark reality of a disease which is spiralling out of control and causing immense suffering to farmers and their families,” Mr Gill said.

The estimated cost of TB, met by farmers and the government, is comprised of on-farm costs, compensation to farmers, disease testing and associated paperwork.

The average annual cost of finding bovine TB on a farm is currently £36,000 due to movement restrictions placed on affected stock, said Mr Gill.

The total yearly cost on the affected farms is likely to be nearly £140m by the time the governments trial is completed in 2006, he added.

Once confined to “hotspot” areas in south-west England, outbreaks of the disease are now being found in areas which have been free from TB for 40 years.

Recent TB outbreaks have been confirmed in Staffordshire and Derbyshire as well as the predominantly dairy-farming county of Cheshire.

Farmers have long suspected that badgers are to blame for spreading TB and the governments Krebs trial aims to determine once and for all whether that is so.

The trial involves a mass badger cull over ten sites but its implementation has been plagued by delays since it was launched last year.

The NFU used the publication of its report today to call for the government to speed up the culling trial and boost the amount of compensation for farmers.

“Any further delay to the implementation of the Krebs trial is simply not acceptable,” Mr Gill told journalists at a press briefing in London.

In addition, the amount of compensation, currently set at 100% of an infected animals value, should be increased to cover consequential losses, he said.

The union also wants further action outside the Krebs trial areas, including additional TB testing and culling of badgers in areas with a history of the disease.

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