New group to tackle bovine TB rise in Cheshire
Farmers and wildlife campaigners have joined together to try to stop the spread of TB in cattle in Cheshire.
The Cheshire TB Eradication Group has been set up after a rise in cases of the disease in the county from 30 in 2005 to 116 in 2012.
Chester farmer Richard Fair said the county was the "final frontier" to stop the disease travelling north.
Wildlife groups have been campaigning to stop culls of badgers, which spread the disease.
The National Farmers' Union (NFU) said if trial culls in the South West successfully controlled the spread of TB they could be used in other areas where the disease was endemic, but vaccinations and other methods would also be used.Problem 'getting worse'
Mr Fair, who has lost five of his diary herd recently to TB, said: "Tackling the disease in Cheshire is seen as critical if the spread north is first to be stopped and then pushed back.
"It is hoped that by bringing together everyone who has an interest in stopping the spread of this disease, we may really get a handle on where the disease is and work together to stop it in its tracks."
The group's first move is to work with the University of Liverpool on a survey of TB in Cheshire's wildlife to focus badger vaccination effectively.
An NFU spokesman said: "Culls will only ever be carried out in areas where TB is endemic and will never be carried out nationwide.
"Although the problem in the county is clearly getting worse, thankfully there is no evidence of wildlife infection."
Earlier this week environment secretary Owen Patterson called the issue "the most pressing animal health problem in the UK" and set out the government's long-term plans to eradicate it.
Plans include a controversial cull of badgers, due to start this year in two areas of South West England.
The draft strategy published on Thursday said "further research into alternative population control methods (eg sett-based culling methods and non-lethal methods) is also under consideration".