Welsh bovine TB plans under fire from auctioneer

Plans to overhaul TB eradication controls in Wales, including the introduction of a mandatory “informed purchasing scheme”, will disadvantage the region’s livestock producers, an auctioneer has warned.

Chris Jones, from McCartneys at Brecon Livestock Market, believes changes outlined in the government’s “refreshed” TB eradication programme risk forcing a shrinkage of the Welsh beef industry.

A Welsh government consultation on planned changes to bovine TB controls is due to close tomorrow (Tuesday, 10 January).

See also: Controlled badger cull looks likely for Wales

Among the proposals, which could be introduced as soon as April, is the Informed Purchasing Scheme (IPS).

This would be compulsory and involve sellers and auctioneers revealing the full history of each animal in terms of TB exposure and TB testing.

Mr Jones says this would seriously deter farmers in different risk zones from purchasing or selling animals, as would the need for post-movement testing of cattle in high-risk areas.

Two-tier market

Mr Jones, who sits on the TB Valuation Panel, said this policy could create a two-tier market. “There is a desire to restrict and discourage cattle movements, but this will not cure the TB in our livestock.

“The fact is a farmer in Wales who has not had TB cannot say his cattle are not at risk of having been exposed to TB.

“Also, a farmer from a holding that has come clear from TB should be able to trade without any disadvantage, as he has gone through all the conditions and his cattle have been tested possibly three times over six months.”

Mr Jones believes the new proposals will do nothing to aid bovine TB eradication and would “simply complicate matters” when resources should instead be used to detect infected wildlife.

“The livestock industry needs an end to TB, but until it is completely eradicated in areas by removing all infected animals and infected wildlife, it will be impossible to achieve that goal.”

Consultation response

The consultation was launched in October and includes plans to:

  • Regionalise Wales into three areas according to TB risk
  • Introduce individual action programmes in chronic breakdown herds
  • Possible trapping and culling of infected badgers in high-risk areas
  • A cap on compensation of £5,000 a cow

In Powys, a majority beef and dairy farmers – about 300 – have responded collectively to the consultation, suggesting the proposals would be detrimental to their businesses and that they were being discriminated against because of where they farmed.

NFU Cymru and the Farmers’ Union of Wales have both consulted widely with members and have based their consultation responses on this feedback.

A proposal to introduce six-monthly testing in the proposed high-risk TB area – South West Wales and the area along the Welsh border with England – has caused the most concern.

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