NFU Cymru says latest data shows Welsh Government’s approach to bovine TB must change

The latest statistics released by Defra have shown that during 2023 the bovine TB situation in Wales has continued to deteriorate. 

The statistics show that in Wales during 2023 there were more new breakdowns, more herds living under restrictions and more cattle slaughtered because of this disease compared to 2022. This picture is in stark contrast to the marked improvements seen across England, where rates of TB continue to fall.

Herd incidents increasing

In Wales, during 2023, the number of new TB herd incidents increased by 6% compared to 2022 (630 vs 592). Whilst decreases were seen in some parts of Wales, worryingly any gains were outweighed by large increases in North East Wales, where TB was once rarely seen, and in South West Wales were bovine TB continues its scourge. The number of herds living under TB restrictions at the end of 2023 compared to the end of 2022 also increased by 5% in Wales (634 herds vs 605 herds) and the number of cattle slaughtered because of bTB increased by 8%, reaching a total of 10,299 across 2023.   

The full statistical release can be read on Gov.UK but in summary over 2023:

  • England
    • Herd incidence rate = 7.3, a decrease of 1.1 from the previous year.
    • Herd prevalence = 4.3% , a decrease from 4.4% in 2022 this is despite an increase in the prevalence rate in the Edge
    • Number of animals slaughtered due to TB = 20,243 which is a decrease of 8% on the previous year and the lowest number since 2007
  • Scotland – classed as officially TB free (OTF) since 2009, there was a few TB breakdowns over 2023 and 593 cattle were slaughtered because of the disease (the most in history) the total herd prevalence and incidence remains low.  
  • Wales
    • Herd incidence rate = 6.8 , an increase of 0.3 compared to the previous year
    • Herd prevalence = 5.6%, an increase compared 5.2% in 2022
    • Number of animals slaughtered due to TB = 10,299, an increase of 8% on 2022

*Herd incidence is the rate of new herd incidents per 100 herds at risk, so it measures the number of new breakdowns.

*Herd prevalence is the percentage of all registered herds which were not Officially TB Free (OTF) due to a TB incident, so it measures the percentage of herds living under TB restrictions.

NFU Cymru TB Focus Group Roger Lewis said: “These statistics further evidence our belief that Welsh Governments’ approach to bovine TB must change. The fact that we saw more new breakdowns and more farming families living under TB restrictions compared than the year before, does not feel like progress to me. It is staggering that in Wales we continue to see over 10,000 cattle slaughtered annually because of this disease, a statistic which hides the true emotional and financial turmoil experienced on farms where this disease is present or is threatening at the door. It is also incredibly worrying to see this disease spreading further into parts of the country which were historically considered as low risk for bTB.”

Ever tightening controls

“The latest peer-reviewed evidence from the first 52 areas in England where badger culling was conducted shows a reduction in rates of bTB breakdowns in cattle by 56% on average after four years of culling. Cattle keepers across Wales are subject to ever tightening cattle controls and implement strict biosecurity protocols but this new evidence about the impact of wildlife on disease transmission cannot be ignored. It only further evidences NFU Cymru’s long standing view that if Welsh Government truly wishes to eradicate bovine TB, then it must implement a comprehensive eradication strategy that deals with the disease wherever it exists, in all vectors.

“The NFU Cymru TB Focus Group are determined that future generations of farmers in Wales should not have to deal with the same level of frustration, anxiety and distress that this disease currently causes our industry and with a new First Minister and Cabinet Secretary in place, we look to an early opportunity to discuss this issue with them.”

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