Cattle culled due to TB rises 12% as Wales ramps up eradication efforts

Wales has made progress on its TB eradication programme, but the momentum must be kept up if the country is to stamp out the disease – according to Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths.

Griffiths updated the Plenary on the programme 18 months since it was refreshed.

In 2018, she said there had been 746 new TB herd incidents in Wales – a 5% decrease compared to 2017.

However, of these incidents, 11, 233 animals were slaughtered as a result of TB, representing a 12% increase.

The Rural Affairs Minister put the increase down to “heightened surveillance” as well as the identification and removal of a higher number of infected animals.

New efforts against TB

The refreshed TB eradication programme, which was launched in 2017, fundamentally changed the way the disease is tackled in Wales with the introduction of a new regionalised system.

This enabled different approaches to disease eradication to be implemented based on the different risks in each part of Wales.

One of the main aims of the programme was to protect the Low TB Area in north-west Wales from infection.

The Minister said that the introduction of Post-Movement Testing had played a key role in this. However, she warned that more still needs to be done.

The refreshed programme also saw a formal approach taken towards persistent TB heard breakdowns through bespoke Action Plans for herds which have been under restrictions for 18 months or more.

By the end of December, 59 Action Plans had been implemented in TB breakdowns and 21 herds with an Action Plan in place had their restrictions lifted.

During the update to Plenary, the Minister also confirmed:

  • A review of the current TB compensation at an appropriate time.
  • Consideration of ways to reduce the instances where TB reactors need to be shot on the farm; and
  • Officials will explore ways to make the situation less distressing for those affected.

In 2018-19, over £14 million was paid in TB compensation to farmers – which is unsustainable to the public purse.

“Any new regime needs to drive good farming practice whilst discouraging bad practice,” the Minister said. “Our refreshed TB eradication programme, which I launched in 2017, fundamentally changed the way we as a Government and the industry view and tackle the disease.

“Today, I am pleased to be able to provide an update on the programme now we have a complete 2018 dataset of TB statistics available.

“We are making progress in tackling the disease but we must now keep up the momentum to stamp out the disease.

“Our regional approach is clearly working and has enabled us to adapt the way we tackle the disease and tailor our response depending on the risk in that area.

“We have been successful in protecting the Low TB Area and have been able to respond to a developing disease situation in the Intermediate TB Area North – introducing a strengthened contiguous testing regime and providing veterinary ‘keep it out’ visits to support TB-free herds.

However, we cannot eradicate the disease alone – we all have a role to play. I cannot overemphasise the value of collaboration when it comes to TB eradication.

“By working together in partnership, with a single purpose, we will stamp out this disease.”