Improvements sought in Welsh bovine TB control

A single general licence to cover livestock movements during a bovine TB breakdown in Wales is being sought by NFU Cymru in a bid to simplify the process for farmers and ease the Animal and Plant Health Agency’s (Apha’s) workload.

Farmers currently need to apply to Apha in advance every time they want to move cattle to an approved finishing unit or another licensed unit.

NFU Cymru’s TB Focus Group is now urging the Welsh government to change the system of individual licences to allow a general licence based on the holding.

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Movements would still be reported to the British Cattle Movement Service and, if necessary, retrospectively to Apha, to ensure compliance and traceability.

It is one of a series of measures the group put to rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths during a recent virtual meeting.

The union also wants clearer language used in correspondence to farmers experiencing a disease breakdown, and changes to the way those letters are sent.

It suggests that for farmers experiencing a breakdown for the first time, the language used in letters can be confusing, particularly the implications for the farm and its disease control strategy of some terms, such as visible lesions and non-visible lesions.

A breakdown also triggers multiple letters. The union is calling for this volume to be reduced and farmers given the option of receiving letters digitally instead of only a paper copy, as currently happens.

That correspondence could also be uploaded to the Rural Payments Wales (RPW) online portal, too, to be accessible by farmers at any time.

Government data suggests that, although the number of animals slaughtered as a result of bovine TB has reduced by nearly 16% in the past 12 months, it accounts for more than 9,700 animals and the disease continues to spread into new areas.

There were 648 new herd incidents over the previous year, accounting for a 2% increase.

The government will publish its refreshed bovine TB programme later this year.

NFU Cymru TB Focus Group chairman Roger Lewis said an invitation has been issued to the minister to meet the Group on-farm.

It had been stressed to her the need to control disease “wherever it exists’’, he said.

“We must remember that behind every bovine TB statistic, there is a farming family impacted by this disease,” said Mr Lewis.

“The impact a bovine TB breakdown has on the mental health and wellbeing of farmers, vets and everyone else associated cannot be overstated. We owe it to them to get this policy right.”