Bovine TB controls 'strangling farming' says NFU Cymru

A farming union claims "draconian" cattle control measures to try to eradicate TB are "strangling the industry".

NFU Cymru, speaking at the Pembrokeshire County Show, said dairy and beef farmers throughout Wales are facing "severe difficulties".

It said there should be a balance between stopping the spread of bovine TB and running a cattle business.

The Welsh government said it was working with farmers to try to help.

The previous Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition Welsh government wanted to cull badgers, suspected to be the carriers of the disease, in an intensive action area (IAA) located in north Pembrokeshire and small parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.

But that plan was scrapped in March and a range of control measures, including vaccinating badgers, were brought in.

But the union said it was concerned about the changes.

It said it was particularly unhappy that farmers with a herd that has had a cow possibly infected by TB cannot buy in cattle for at least two months.

Cattle can only move onto a TB restricted farm prior to the completion of a veterinary risk assessment and completion of a TB test, carried out 60 days after an infected animal has left the farm.

"This can be a huge cost for dairy farmers who lose prime dairy cows and consequently suffer financially from loss of milk volume," said Andrew Lewis, Pembrokeshire NFU Cymru county chairman.

Mr Lewis said that although the changes had been brought in because of an EU directive, the union was arguing for a "fairer balance to be struck" between control measures and ensuring that cattle farming businesses can be run.

Risk assessment

"We believe that farmers should have the opportunity to work closely with their own vets so that, subject to a risk assessment and the approval of suitable separation facilities on the farm, new animals can be brought in without having to wait at least two months," he added.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "The recent changes mentioned by the NFU are the result of an EU directive.

"They are designed to minimise the risk of spread of infection at a time when a herd is a particularly high risk and are being implemented across both England and Wales.

"However we are working to minimise the time holdings are under restriction by re-examining the management of persistent and recurrent breakdowns.

"We agree that farmers need specialist veterinary advice when dealing with a TB breakdown and are currently working with representative organisations and regional eradication boards to consider how best to increase the level of individual veterinary support available to farmers at what is a difficult time."

Pig farming fears

Meanwhile, the Pembrokeshire County Show said it was expecting a record attendance on its first day of 35,000-40,000.

Elsewhere, at the Anglesey Show, NFU Cymru said pig farmers were struggling to survive and that many might be out of business because of "rocketing feed costs and cheaper foreign imports".

Christine Jones, the Anglesey NFU Cymru county chairman, said: "To ensure the sustainability of pig production here is Wales it is essential that any cost increase is passed up the supply chain; unless this happens we will continue to see pig farmers deciding to call it a day.

"Our buyers must pay a price that truly reflects the cost of producing pork to the highest health, welfare and environmental standards rather than simply paying what they feel they can get away with which appears very much to be their current attitude."

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