We are making progress on our TB eradication programme, we must now keep up the momentum and continue to work together to stamp out the disease – that’s the message from Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths as she updated plenary on the programme eighteen months since it was refreshed.
In 2018, there were 746 new TB herd incidents in Wales, representing a 5% decrease compared to 2017. Of these incidents, 11, 233 animals were slaughtered as a result of TB, representing a 12% increase. This increase is largely due to heightened surveillance and the identification and removal of a higher number of infected animals as we get ahead of the disease.
The refreshed TB eradication programme, launched in 2017, fundamentally changed the way the disease is tackled in Wales with the introduction of regionalisation. The regional system has enabled different approaches to disease eradication to be implemented, based on the different risks in each part of Wales.
One of the main aims of the programme was to protect the Low TB Area from infection. The Minister today confirmed we are succeeding in protecting the area in North West Wales, with the introduction of Post-Movement Testing playing a key role. However, more needs to be done and the Minister urged all Low TB Area farmers to do all they can to keep bovine TB out.
A key commitment in the refreshed programme was the introduction of a formal approach to tackling persistent TB heard breakdowns through bespoke Action Plans for herds which have been under restrictions for 18 months or more. By the end of December, 59 Action Plans had been implemented in TB breakdowns and 21 herds with an Action Plan in place had their restrictions lifted.
During the update to Plenary, the Minister also confirmed:
- a review of the current TB compensation at an appropriate time. In 2018-19, over £14m was paid in TB compensation to farmers – which is unsustainable to the public purse. Any new regime needs to drive good farming practice whilst discouraging bad practice; and
- officials are currently looking at ways to reduce the instances where TB reactors need to be shot on farm and exploring ways to make the situation less distressing for those affected.
The Minister said:
“Our refreshed TB eradication programme which I launched in 2017 fundamentally changed the way we as a Government and the industry view and tackle the disease.
“Today I am pleased to be able to provide an update on the programme now we have a complete 2018 dataset of TB statistics available. We are making progress in tackling the disease but we must now keep up the momentum to stamp out the disease.
“Our regional approach is clearly working and has enabled us to adapt the way we tackle the disease and tailor our response depending on the risk in that area. We have been successful in protecting the Low TB Area and have been able to respond to a developing disease situation in the Intermediate TB Area North - introducing a strengthened contiguous testing regime and providing veterinary ‘keep it out’ visits to support TB free herds.
“However, we cannot eradicate the disease alone – we all have a role to play. I cannot over emphasise the value of collaboration when it comes to TB eradication. By working together in partnership, with a single purpose, we will stamp out this disease.”