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Farming unions frustrated as Welsh Government ramps up bTB testing

’Risky’ cattle movements were blamed as recurrence rates hit one third across the country.

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Farming unions frustrated as Welsh Gov ramps up bTB testing

A move to increase the frequency of bovine TB (bTB) testing has been criticised by farming unions, who questioned the Welsh Government’s long term strategy.


Welsh Government made the announcement this week following 63 new bTB outbreaks in its Intermediate TB Area North (ITBAN) in 2017 alone – a 75 per cent spike and the highest annual number of incidents since 2013.


Officially TB Free Withdrawn (OTFW) breakdown herds in the ITBAN will be extended as of November 13, with a further two contiguous tests at six-month intervals within the regime.


It was triggered on the back of studies which found about eight in 10 outbreaks in the Low TB Area were a result of moving infected cattle from High Risk Areas, while recurrence rates within two years were hitting levels of one third across the whole country.

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The area is adjacent to Cheshire and Shropshire where six-monthly testing has been proved reliable in identifying the disease in England.


But the Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) said the regionalised approach to bTB control was not performing as hoped and had not yet yielded any results which suggested the strategy was having a significant impact on the level of disease in Wales.


An FUW spokesperson said: “In the 12 months from July 2017 to June 2018 there were 731 new herd incidents in Wales and this was a 1.7 percent increase on the previous 12 months.



“This latest announcement represents yet another raft of testing and the FUW is frustrated that increases in cattle testing show no sign of abatement.


“Despite being unclear on all the reasons for the spike in TB outbreaks, the default go-to position appears to be one of blaming cattle movements and ramping up the testing regime to levels which drastically impede farm businesses.”

NFU Cymru deputy president Aled Jones said while he welcomed the government subsidised veterinary ‘Keep it Out’ advice visits which use the farmer’s own vet, he warned flexibility on timing must be given to those required to test their whole herd every six months.


“We would also like to remind members to report any badger carcases to the Badger Found Dead Survey which helps build up a picture of the disease in an area. Call 08081 695 110 to report,” Mr Jones said.


Of the 13 dead badgers found in the ITBAN this year, none tested positive for the disease.


Additional training to boost knowledge on how to keep the disease out will be held from 7.30 to 9.30pm at The Garden Suite, Holt House Lodge, Wrexham LL13 9SW on November 13.

Offical Defra stats reveal slaughterings on the up

The number of animals slaughtered as a result of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is on the up, according to new Defra figures.

Published on Wednesday (October 17), the data revealed that although there was an overall drop in new herd incidents year-on-year – down seven per cent in England and two per cent in Wales – total animals slaughtered jumped to 33,409 in the 12-months to the end of July 2018, compared to 31,112 in the 12-months prior.

An NFU spokesman said: “Bovine TB continues to be a devastating disease for beef and dairy farmers in large parts of the country, with more than 33,000 cattle slaughtered last year because of the disease in England and more than 3,800 herds that had been clear of the disease affected by it.

“We have always said that we must use every available option to tackle this disease – cattle testing, cattle movement controls, biosecurity, vaccination when available and where appropriate, and control of the disease in wildlife in areas where it is endemic.

“Only by employing this comprehensive approach will we stand a chance of achieving what everyone wants – a TB free England.”

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