FARM chiefs have welcomed the latest bovine TB (bTB) figures from Defra which showed new outbreaks have fallen by 7 per cent since last year, but acknowledged the decrease will be little comfort to farmers affected by the disease.
New incidents in high risk areas have also fallen 7 per cent and there has been a drop of 24 per cent in low risk areas.
However, new outbreaks increased by 5 per cent in edge areas and the number of animals slaughtered due to the disease rose 3 per cent to 29,425.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said while a reduction in outbreaks showed the Government’s bovine TB eradication strategy was working, ‘over the years we have watched the disease move up the country’.
In Cheshire, a county made up of high risk and edge areas but which will move completely to edge area measures in January next year, bTB cases have increased.
About 50 per cent more herds were restricted this year than in the same period last year – a situation which was described as ‘concerning’ by dairy farmer and Farmers Guardian In Your Field writer Phil Latham.
He said it was ‘ridiculous’ gamma testing could be rejected by Defra on farms where vets wanted to carry it out because it did not ‘fit with current objectives’.
“Gamma testing can only be rolled out if people want it and farmers accept it”, he added.
“I think it is ludicrous. If you want to get rid of the disease, you do not worry about things like that. If everybody wants to deploy the test and you are going to get rid of 100 potential reactors which are going to contaminate wildlife, then get on with it. It is bonkers.”
Mr Latham also said it was important for farmers to accept more cattle controls to defeat the disease.
He pointed to New Zealand as a successful model, where cows are coded based on the number of years farms have been clear of TB, and called for it to be made illegal to sell inconclusive reactors to unsuspecting buyers.
“We have got to embrace more surveillance and more cattle measures at the same time as getting on with wildlife control”, he added.
“Farmers need to behave better as well as Defra facilitating an expansion of the culls.”
Unions have championed a proposal from the National Assembly for Wales to push for a countrywide target date for official TB-free status and the removal of badgers from infected herds.