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Refreshed approach needed to tackle Bovine TB in Wales

23/05/2017

​A refreshed approach is needed to re-examine how to eradicate Bovine Tuberculosis from Welsh cattle, according to a new report from a National Assembly committee.

The Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee recommends a regionalised approach to tackling TB. Surveillance testing of cattle herds and risk-based trading should be among the options considered.

The Committee also wants to see a target date set for when Wales will be completely TB free. Unlike England, Ireland and New Zealand, the Welsh Government has not set a timetable for national TB eradication.

A refreshed eradication programme from the Welsh Government was welcomed by Committee members who also agreed with a proposal to start targeted badger removal in herds with persistent outbreaks of TB. 

But, the Committee warned, this must be scientifically monitored and reviewed to make sure it is working; if not, the practice needs to be stopped or changed. The evidence gathered must also be made available for independent peer review.

“The Climate change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee has examined the strategies being used in this country and across the world and we need to beat the disease based on the best evidence of what works to tackle the bovine TB problem in Wales,” said Jenny Rathbone AM, interim Chair of the Committee.

“Bovine TB is an expensive, tenacious and frustrating problem for the farming community in Wales. 

“We want to see Wales declared TB free as soon as possible, but recognise the level of co-operation needed to get there is considerable.

“We concluded that a refreshed strategy is needed, which encompasses a regional approach to eradicating TB, movement restrictions on infected herds and risk-based trading among other options. We also need to keep a close eye on the management of larger dairy herds and any link with the slurry they generate.”

A regional approach would see areas of Wales categorized as high, medium or low risk areas with different restrictions for each grade.

Risk-based trading supported the eradication of TB in Australia, while a similar scheme in New Zealand is used on a voluntary basis.

The issue of compensation, including its cost, was also raised during the inquiry. Over the last 10 years around £150 million has been paid to farmers whose animals have been destroyed through the TB eradication programme.

The Welsh Government has proposed reducing the maximum amount it pays in compensation from £15,000 to £5,000. Part of the reasoning behind the reduction is related to the expected end of European funding, currently worth £2-3 million per year.

Ms Rathbone said:

“We have heard from farmers of the cost of the testing programme and the distress this causes when animals have to be destroyed. 

“We are calling on the Welsh Government to ensure farmers are paid a reasonable sum as compensation when this happens.

“We will be reviewing the new policy after it has been in place for 12 months and to make sure it is the most effective way to ensure Wales is TB free.”

The Committee makes 12 recommendations in its report, including:

  • The Welsh Government should set a national target date for Wales to be officially TB free and provide clarity on the process for achieving this;
  • The Committee supports the Welsh Government’s proposal to encourage Informed Purchasing, also known as Risk Based Trading. A system of Risk Based Trading should be taken forward voluntarily in the first instance with the industry and livestock markets. This should be kept under review and, if necessary, introduced on a mandatory basis; and
  • The Welsh Government must ensure that current funding received from the European Union for bovine TB testing and other measures will be guaranteed within future Welsh Government budgets.

The report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.

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