OCTOBer 1 2017 saw a significant shift in the Welsh Government’s bovine TB eradication programme. As expected, the new ‘refreshed’ programme remains heavily focussed on cattle control measures and many of the new measures pay particular attention to chronic breakdown herds that have suffered with bovine TB for more than 18 months.
The FUW thoroughly consulted with its membership following the release of the refreshed Bovine TB eradication programme consultation in October last year.
As expected, both the regionalisation approach and many of the proposed cattle control measures caused significant concern amongst our membership. Whilst it must be recognised that the final programme will still cause immense frustration amongst some cattle keepers, many of the proposed rules were minimised by our lobbying and our consultation response was crucial in highlighting the problems that could be imposed by the new rules.
Following direction from our membership, we strongly opposed the proposal to effectively add a further 60-days of movement restrictions for herds passing a clearing test. We emphasised that this would increase the minimum time period that any herd was under restriction to at least six months.
The Welsh Government accepted our concerns surrounding this issue and the new measures will now allow the clearing test to continue to be used as a pre-movement test, except in chronic cases.
Other concerns that we highlighted, relating to policies such as six monthly testing in the High risk Areas, have also been accepted by Welsh Government and such policies are now only being used in a targeted approach to disease control.
We were also pleased to note that, following consultation, the lifetime restriction of clear tested inconclusive reactors to the herd will also now not be used.
Nevertheless, it cannot be ignored that the ‘refreshed’ programme embraces a regionalisation approach which did not form part of the consultation process and was therefore an unavoidable and predetermined part of the new programme.
The regionalisation approach is divisive in that it functions to divide Wales into Low, Intermediate and High TB areas based upon bovine TB levels. However, the divisions within the regional approach will inevitably go much deeper if this approach leads to the creation of a two- tier market for cattle.
We continue to reiterate members concerns regarding the implementation of measures, such as regionalisation, without significant and long-term measures to tackle the disease in wildlife.
As part of the new bovine TB programme, a small positive step forward in tackling the wildlife reservoir of the disease has been announced. For the foreseeable future, this new targeted approach can only be of benefit to a handful of cattle herds residing in the High TB area.
Nevertheless, successful TB eradication programmes in other countries have included a commitment to tackle the wildlife disease reservoir and we therefore welcome the proposal to begin targeted badger removal in herds with persistent TB.
Whilst we are pleased to see recognition of the need to deal with wildlife in chronic breakdown herds, we would also seek to ensure that any strategy for badger removal be extended if benefits could be conferred elsewhere in Wales. It is essential that evidence on the degree to which badger populations are infected with TB continues to be gathered proactively across Wales.
As with strategies relating to cattle populations, any indication of TB in badgers should lead to badger removal in infected areas.
We continue to meet regularly with the Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer and continue to lobby on behalf of our membership.
We have consistently pressed for an FAQ on the new rules in order to ensure that cattle keepers are not
penalised for unintentional breaches and a comprehensive Welsh Government FAQ was published online on October 1.
However, we recognise that the new rules and regulations remain a significant concern for farmers throughout Wales and we will therefore soon be hosting TB workshops in North, Mid and South Wales.
Further details will be provided via the county office structure in due course and we would encourage members to feedback any concerns or issues to their local office.