Welsh Government must balance agricultural priorities – The Llanelli Herald

THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has ruled out controlling the spread of bovine tuberculosis through targeted culling in areas where the disease is endemic.

A spokesperson confirmed the Welsh Government’s position ahead of the release of a major review of its TB eradication strategy.

The review, led by Professor Glyn Hewinson of Aberystwyth University, is expected to focus on vaccination of cattle and the use of improved tests for the tuberculosis bacteria in cattle.

False positives for BTB can only be detected after death by autopsy.


The persistence of the BTB bacteria in the soil and in the population of protected wild mammals, especially badgers, is creating a perfect storm for farmers in our county.

The area around the common borders of North Pembrokeshire, the Teifi Valley and north-west Carmarthen is a long-standing hotspot for the disease.

Farmers in this area have suffered disproportionate and repeated losses throughout the Welsh Government’s various approaches to eradicating BTB.

When the disease is detected in a herd, it is common practice for the whole herd to be culled. Although farmers are partly compensated for their loss, the loss of their livestock poses long-term problems for farmers in the recovery of their business. Loss of herds and culling are closely linked to mental health issues for farmers and farm families. The cost of BTB is much higher than balancing profit and loss.


Local MS Sam Kurtz, who comes from a farming family, told the Herald: ‘Since the 1970s bovine tuberculosis has been a dark cloud hanging over our agricultural industry.

“While it may not have had the impact on the public psyche as the foot-and-mouth disease crisis of the early 2000s did, bovine tuberculosis has been a long and heavy burden for Welsh farmers, with over 20,000 cattle killed in the past 2 years.
“What the Welsh Government has in terms of policy is the repetition of an outdated and inaccurate testing regime followed by tough and debilitating restrictions for farmers.

“It is clear from the latest data showing that new cases of bovine TB in Wales have increased by 3% that the Welsh Government’s current eradication program is simply not working.

“Throughout the pandemic, our farmers have worked 24/7 to keep food on our tables, despite the stresses and concerns of routine TB testing.

“The industry is now desperately looking for some urgency and a shift in strategy.

“A new test regimen, Enferplex, provides greater accuracy than the current test.

“As it is undertaken in small pockets of Wales, a dedicated pilot program for this new test to collect hard data must be a priority for this Welsh Government.”

The Enferplex Bovine TB antibody test identifies the presence of bovine tuberculosis. Used in conjunction with existing tests, it is much more accurate than current tests in validating positive diagnoses.


The FUW believes that any future changes to the TBb eradication program should closely follow science in order to develop an effective eradication program covering all aspects of the disease in Wales.

A FUW spokesperson told us: “Bovine TB continues to stifle businesses in high and intermediate infection areas in Wales and continues to have a significant adverse effect on mental health and well-being. be of our breeders and their families.

“The September quarterly release of national statistics on the incidence and prevalence of TB in cattle in Britain shows mixed results, with no year-on-year change in the number of herds that are not free. of TB in the High West Area of ​​Wales, and a 26% increase in the number of herds not free from TB in the North Intermediate area.
“Results like these continue to devastate companies that have made massive sacrifices

to comply with the Welsh government’s costly and time-consuming bovine tuberculosis eradication programme.
“The FUW welcomes continued research into this devastating disease as part of a science-based and pragmatic approach to tackling TB in Wales. We look forward to the publication of the next TB review and will discuss the findings of the review at all relevant policy and policy levels. »


NFU Cymru County Councilor for Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, Peter Howells, said: “It is worrying to see the latest bovine TB statistics released by Defra which show a rise in bovine TB incidents and a loss of 10,775 animals in Wales due to this terrible disease in the year ending June 21. This underlines once again that bovine tuberculosis continues to wreak havoc on the beef industry in Wales.
“In October 2017 we saw the Welsh Government introduce a regionalized approach to tackling the disease in Wales.

NFU Cymru supports an approach that allows for the introduction of appropriate measures depending on the circumstances.

In the low TB areas of Wales, we must do all we can to keep the disease out. In areas of the country, such as South West Wales, where evidence suggests that cattle and badgers suffer from this disease, we believe the disease will only be brought under control through a comprehensive set of measures that s attack infection in both populations. .
“We continue to urge the Welsh Government to take note of the evidence published from England. A peer-reviewed scientific report examining the effectiveness of badger culling in reducing outbreaks of tuberculosis in cattle has shown positive results in England.

“The report commissioned by Defra found an average reduction in the incidence of bovine tuberculosis of at least 40% in areas of England that have completed at least four years of culling.
“Just across the border in Gloucestershire, the report showed a 66% drop in new TB outages.
“NFU Cymru continues to take every opportunity to raise with the Minister for Rural Affairs our concerns about the emotional and financial impact this disease is having on farming families. Earlier this summer, we wrote directly to the Prime Minister about this.

“We are aware that the minister has said she will make a statement on the TB program later this fall and that Professor Hewinson is currently carrying out an internal review of the program. We are pleased that the Minister has asked someone with Professor Hewinson’s experience and expertise to conduct the review and we look forward to the publication of the review.


A Welsh Government spokesperson said: ‘TB in cattle is a huge challenge for everyone involved and distressing for farmers who have to deal with it in their herds. Part of the solution to the problem lies in the willingness of people to work together, both in government and in industry.

“The TB eradication program in Wales is based on cooperation, with three regional eradication councils working at local level to ensure that policies are developed collaboratively and communicated effectively.
“We have indicated in our program for the government that we will not allow the culling of badgers as part of measures to combat bovine tuberculosis.

“Recent scientific studies have not provided conclusive evidence that culling badgers alone will reduce incidence levels in cattle herds.

“More infections have been shown to be transmitted within species than between species, suggesting that controlling transmission in cattle is a priority in the strategy to eliminate TB.

“When the Intensive Action Area (IAA) was created in 2010 with additional measures introduced in the High West TB Control Area, 27.1% of herds were restricted due to TB control. At the end of June 2021, 14.5% of the herds were restricted, i.e. a decrease in the prevalence of the herds by today of 46%.

“We are committed to undertaking a review of the current TB eradication program and will announce an updated approach later this year.

“All aspects of the program will be considered and we will undertake consultation in the fall to inform future policy.”


The irony is that a largely effective vaccine already exists.

BCG vaccination given to humans is 70% effective when used to immunize livestock. The vaccine uses the tuberculosis bacteria to provoke an immune response. Once used, however, tests cannot detect the difference between successfully inoculated cattle and infected cattle.

Therefore, vaccinating cows with BCG is banned in most countries, allowing veterinarians to continue to use the PPD skin test to diagnose the disease in cattle.

Scientists at the University of Surrey think they might have a solution to this problem.

By manipulating the genetic makeup of the disease, scientists created a BCG-free strain. They then developed a new synthetic skin test that, like existing tests, will test positive for animals that have been exposed to tuberculosis. Unlike those tests, however, the new test will show a negative result for animals that have been vaccinated with the BCG-minus strain.

Johnjoe McFadden, Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Surrey, said: “To control the spread of bovine tuberculosis, effective vaccination and accurate early diagnosis of the disease are essential. This new vaccine offers protection against bovine tuberculosis. It will help fight this deadly disease which infects more than 50 million cattle worldwide and is economically devastating to farmers.

“The next step in our work will be to demonstrate that the synthetic skin test and the BCG-minus vaccine work in cattle herds. If they do, then it will be possible to vaccinate cattle against tuberculosis while retaining the value of the skin test for diagnosis.

About Keneth T. Graves

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