Closer analysis of Government statistics reveal staggering toll of TB on Pembrokeshire farmers

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As local farmers gather for the annual Pembrokeshire County Show, the continued anger and frustration of the industry with the impacts of bovine TB on the farming industry within the county is a major talking point. 

The most recent official government statistics, released last month, are extremely alarming, with 3731 cattle slaughtered in the county in the 12 months up to the end of April 2019. This equates to nearly a third of all the cattle slaughtered in Wales due to bovine TB in the last 12 months having come from the county of Pembrokeshire.

The figures did reveal that the number of new herd incidents in Wales has decreased by 7%, and that there was a 1% increase in the number of herds not officially TB free at the end of the 12 months up until the end of April 2019, when comparing year-on-year. However, the figures also reveal a 19% year-on-year increase in the total number of animals slaughtered in Wales due to bovine TB, and the situation in the High Incidence Area in West Wales, which includes all of Pembrokeshire and large parts of neighbouring counties of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire; show that there was a staggering 27% increase year-on-year. 

Speaking at the show, Pembrokeshire NFU Cymru County Chair, Clare Morgan said: “This scale of loss is hugely damaging and totally unsustainable for the industry in Pembrokeshire, and comes at a time when farm incomes and cash flow in general are already under massive pressure.”

Mrs Morgan continued: “I’ve spoken to many farming families in this county who are struggling under the enormous emotional and financial strain caused by bovine TB. Cattle farmers here in Pembrokeshire, and in other parts of Wales, are adhering to additional cattle movement and testing controls, which came into force as part of the refreshed TB Eradication Programme that was introduced by the Welsh Government in October 2017.  We are now nearly two years into the refreshed TB programme and these latest figures reveal a grim reality that the policies currently in place simply aren’t eradicating the disease in Wales.”

Mrs Morgan added: “There is a stark contrast when you compare what’s happening in the high Risk areas in England where the disease is being addressed in both the cattle and wildlife populations, and where the most recent statistics show that the vast majority of these counties have seen falling numbers of cattle slaughtered and fewer herds under restriction.  This shows the benefits of a TB eradication strategy where government and farmers are working in genuine partnership to tackle this horrendous disease, and where there’s a wildlife policy delivered by farmers, but supported and designed in partnership with government. NFU Cymru wrote to the Minister earlier this year to highlight our willingness to work with Welsh Government on a similar approach in Wales, and that offer remains on the table, although it’s most disappointing that only last month in Plenary the Minister once again ruled out a Badger Cull as part of a TB strategy for Wales.   

“It was interesting to note in the recent TB update that Welsh Government sent out to farmers in Wales, that just one in three confirmed TB breakdowns in High TB areas are primarily attributable to cattle movements.  This makes me, and many other farmers in the High Risk area, question what is actually being done about the causes of the other two-thirds of confirmed breakdowns in the High Risk areas? 

Mrs Morgan concluded: “The recently published report by APHA on the delivery of badger trap and test operations on chronic TB breakdown farms in Wales in 2018 revealed that only six farms were selected by Welsh Government to participate in this project, and at that rate the goal of total eradication of bovine TB in Wales, that both government and industry aspire to achieve, will fail.”

Last edited: 08:55 on August 13, 2019

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© NFU Cymru 2019