A refreshed TB Eradication Programme will build on the positive progress already made in Wales which has seen a 48% decrease in new TB incidents since 2009.
This is the message from Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths as she launched a 12-week consultation on proposed enhancements to the programme.
The TB Eradication Programme sets out the Welsh Government’s long term vision for the eradication of bovine TB in Wales. The programme is based on the four key principles of infectious disease control: Keep it Out, Find it Fast, Stop it Spreading and Stamp it Out.
A regionalised approach to TB eradication was launched in 2017 creating Low, Intermediate and High TB Areas and policies have continued to be refined, reacting dynamically to the changing disease picture, whilst responding to the particular challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The consultation launched today includes proposals on:
- The TB testing programme in Wales to help further reduce the risk of the spread of TB such as testing protocols specifically, at this stage, in relation to the Pre-Movement Test.
- Informed Purchasing and its aim to encourage keepers to provide TB information about cattle they wish to sell and for keepers to make wise purchasing decisions.
- Payments for cattle slaughtered as a result of TB, to ensure the system is fair and proportionate, and reflects the financial resources available.
The Minister has also announced badger trap and test work in persistent herd breakdowns will be phased out from this year as the limited sample size and short follow-up period provide limited meaningful results to gauge the impact of interventions on cattle TB.
Work will be completed on existing farms but new ones will not be recruited into the process. Funding saved from phasing out of this work will see a further £100,000 made available initially for expanding badger vaccination across Wales.
In addition, a review will take place on options to supplement veterinary capacity for TB testing through greater use of appropriately trained and supervised paraprofessional staff.
A new Task and Finish Group will consider the best ways of communicating with cattle keepers, to help them to protect their herds, and also throughout a TB breakdown. They will consider the potential role for TB Champions in Wales and farming and veterinary organisations have been approached for nominations for membership of this Group.
It is also the intention to continue the All Wales Badger Found Dead Survey to increase knowledge on the disease in badgers.
Speaking in the Senedd, Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths said: “Bovine TB has a devastating impact on the farming industry and we must do all we can to protect our cattle herds from this disease.
“We have seen good progress since our programme was first established, with long term decreases in incidence and prevalence. The 48% decrease in new TB incidents since 2009 shows our programme is making a real difference to farming families and businesses.
“A key aim of our Programme is the rapid, accurate, early identification of infection and we strive to improve TB diagnostics, embracing new research and being open to new validated tests.
“Collaboration and partnership working, taking ownership and recognising we all have a role to play are key to the success of our Programme.”
Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop said: “We remain steadfast in our commitment and determination to rid Wales of a disease which has far reaching repercussions throughout the Welsh farming industry.
“Year on year we have made enhancements to our programme and introduced many fundamental policies which changed the TB landscape across Wales and laid foundations for the future.
“We continue to support the development of a deployable cattle TB vaccine with a test to differentiate infected from vaccinated animals to be in place by 2025.
“Cattle vaccination has the potential to become a powerful tool in the battle against the disease and we will be engaging with the TB Centre of Excellence to plan its most appropriate deployment in Wales.”
The Sêr Cymru Centre of Excellence for Bovine Tuberculosis for Wales was established at Aberystwyth University in 2018 bringing together international expertise with the aim of providing underpinning scientific evidence to support eradication of the cattle disease.
Professor Glyn Hewinson, Head of the Centre at Aberystwyth University, said: “We met with the Minister over the summer and have provided advice over the past months. I am pleased to see some of our recommendations are being incorporated into future development of the programme. The Centre here at Aberystwyth University will continue to provide a strong scientific base for Wales and engage with all stakeholders as we all strive to find new and better ways of combatting this devastating disease.”