The Welsh Government are working to eliminate bovine TB from an area of west Wales by targeting every possible source of infection. The area has the highest bTB herd breakdown in the country and is important for beef and dairy production. Their comprehensive approach, with strict attention to every detail, provides a comprehensive solution that is already showing improvements in bTB throughout the country. In an area of west Wales, they have put extra measures in place with the aim of eradicating the disease in the local cattle population. This area is called the Intensive Action Area (IAA). They established the IAA to tackle all sources of bovine TB infection in domestic and wild animal species. This is a similar approach to that used in New Zealand, where they have successfully eradicated the disease from large areas of the country.
The IAA is primarily located in north Pembrokeshire but includes small parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. Beef and dairy farming is an important industry in the area. The IAA has one of the highest incidence rates of bovine TB in Wales. It is an area which accounts for a significant proportion of the national TB compensation costs.
Cattle farms in the IAA tend to be under movement restrictions for a longer period of time compared to other parts of Wales. The proportion of cattle that react to the TB test is also higher. Our ongoing badger survey has confirmed the presence of bovine TB in the badgers.
They have introduced a range of measures to reduce the level of infection within all species in the area. These are:
- stricter cattle controls
- improved biosecurity measures
- testing all goats and camelids
- vaccinating badgers.
Increased cattle surveillance and controls came into place on 1 May 2010. All cattle owners in the area are also involved in a project to improve biosecurity on their farms to reduce the risk of bTB getting into their herds. The vaccination project began in May 2012 and will continue for five years.
There isn’t a badger cull in Wales. Instead, they have implemented a vaccination programme.
Between December 2012 and November 2013, there were 880 new herd incidents compared to 1,145 new herd incidents in the previous year. This represents a 23% reduction.
In the same period, the number of cattle slaughtered for bovine TB control also reduced from 9,364 to 6,275 which is a reduction of 33% This compares very favourably with the English government's figures for the same period which show a 6% reduction in new herd incidents and a 14% reduction in the numbers of cattle slaughtered for TB control.
Further proof that killing badgers isn’t the answer to eradicating bTB from wildlife or cattle.
In 2015 statistics for Wales show that 8,103 cattle were slaughtered as a result of the disease and 837 cattle herds suffered from a new breakdown of the disease.
Line Chart showing the Number of new herd incidences and Cattle Slaughtered in Wales between 2005 - 2015. The graph shows the changes in the number of new incidences in herds of Bovine TB in Wales over the last ten years, as well as the number of cattle slaughtered over the same period.
There was a peak in new herd incidences and Cattle slaughtered in 2008-09 but since then there has been a constant downward trend. So how has the Welsh Government achieved this?
The previous Welsh Government had a Bovine TB Eradication Programme that was made up of a number of different elements that included: annual testing of cattle herds; a wide range of cattle control measures such as pre-movement testing; movement restrictions on infected herds; slaughtering infected animals, and piloting badger vaccination in some areas.
Two key principles of the programme were keeping the disease out of “clean farms” and identifying infection early.
As part of this programme an Intensive Action Area, (IAA) was established. The IAA is a 288 square km area located mainly in northern Pembrokeshire, set up to test different approaches to tackling the disease. These included tighter cattle control measures and a five-year badger vaccination pilot project. The pilot project was due to enter its fifth year in spring 2016 but problems with the global supply of the vaccine used to inoculate badgers meant that in December 2015 the Welsh Government announced the pilot would be suspended a year early. The Welsh Government commissioned modeling work to look at the impact of halting the pilot. The modeling work indicated that stopping the project a year early will not have a detrimental effect on its outcomes.
In 2011 the Welsh Government passed The Badger (Control Order) (Wales) 2011. This order gave the Welsh Government powers to undertake if it wished, a badger cull within the IAA. However, this order was subsequently revoked in 2012 by John Griffiths, the then Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, following his decision to pursue a badger vaccination policy instead. If the Welsh Government wished in future to pursue a cull in the IAA or in other parts of Wales, it would need to secure support for a new order through the Assembly. The use of a badger cull to remove the disease in wildlife as used in England has proven hugely expensive and divisive, with proponents and opponents of the policy putting forward competing scientific evidence and results.
There has been some work to monitor the impacts of the eradication policies in the IAA. A report on the differences in Bovine TB breakdowns between the IAA and other parts of Wales between 2010 and 2015 concluded that consistent trends in Bovine TB indicators have yet to be seen, but that more time is needed before any ‘meaningful differences’ in trends between the herds in the IAA and Control Area can be identified. The UK administrations have also funded research into developing cattle vaccines and more sensitive diagnostic tests for the disease in cattle.
In October 2016, Lesley Griffiths, The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, launched a strengthened TB Eradication Programme, which commits to taking a regionalised approach to eliminating the disease in Wales.
The Welsh Government’s “refreshed” bTB strategy proposals come amid encouraging signs in the long battle against the disease. Latest figures show new TB herd incidents in Wales are down by 19% on the year as the government delivers a “hard testing” strategy. The new eradication programme is due to be implemented in April 2018 following a 12-week consultation. These are designed to promote “behavioural changes” and “greater responsibility” from Farmers.
The key proposals
1. Introducing an Informed Purchasing Scheme
Similar ideas have been deployed in Australia and New Zealand to help farmers make informed decisions about the cattle they buy. These countries used risk scores for herds and areas to set up a trading system which restricts purchases and rewards TB-free herds with premium prices.
2. Compensation penalties for cattle moved within multi-site restricted holdings
To prevent movement of infected cattle to low TB holdings, or TB-free cattle to high TB holdings. This would affect herds with 18-month breakdowns and those with recurring problems. Compensation penalties will also be levied on cattle brought on to restricted holdings so that farmers “share the financial risk”. Additional cross-compliance penalties are also proposed.
3. Reducing the TB compensation cap from £15,000 to £5,000
Pedigree breeders will be most affected and will be encouraged to take out insurance. In 2015, this would have affected around 1% of farmers in Wales but would have saved the taxpayer around £300,000 in pay-outs.
How will the TB zones work?
TB zones have been mapped out by epidemiologists and the boundaries are not up for consultation. The Low TB Area has less than 0.2% of herds with TB breakdowns, High TB areas have more than 2%.
New supplies of badger vaccine are not now expected to be available until 2018, but vaccination will still have a role – the Clwyd Intermediate TB area is one possible example.
Low TB Area - Anglesey, Gwynedd and Clwyd (North West)
The area is close to being declared Officially TB Free (OTF) in fact, it would have achieved this with just one fewer breakdown each year. With no notable disease in the local wildlife, most TB breakdowns are thought to be caused by cattle movements.
Action: Cattle controls tightened to prevent disease ingress.
Intermediate TB Area (North) – the rest of Clwyd
Most breakdowns are related to inwards cattle movements from endemic TB areas in England: not only is the disease reservoir low in wildlife – only two positive badgers have been found dead – the local TB genotype is also seen in Shropshire and south Cheshire.
Action: Extra cattle controls are needed and badger vaccination may have a role here.
Intermediate TB Area (Mid) – Upland Mid Wales
Inwards cattle movements appear to be introducing TB, along with local movements – many new breakdowns are found through contiguous testing, and only one positive badger has been found dead here since November 2014.
Action: Extra cattle controls along with badger vaccination to prevent TB becoming established in wildlife.
High TB Area (West) – south west Wales
This has one of the highest rates of TB in Wales with the most severe breakdowns. Local spread is a significant factor – positive contiguous testing is high and most cattle are bought locally.
Action: Reduce infection spreading through early detection, cattle movement controls
High TB Area (Border) – from north Powys to Gwent
Most cattle movements are local or from England where TB is endemic. The area has the highest number of new breakdowns. Wildlife infection is also thought to be a factor – the disease has been found in dead badgers and in low levels in deer and wild boar in east Monmouthshire.
Action: Reduce the risk of infection spread from cattle movements and from infected badgers.
Welsh Government Criteria
Low TB Area
All animals moving in to have a Pre-Movement Test (PrMT) – cattle moving out or within the area will no longer need a PrMT
Cattle moving in from a higher disease area will require a Post-Movement Test (PoMT).
High risk herds identified and tested every six months.
Clear-tested Inconclusive Reactors (IRs) restricted to their herd for the rest of their lives.
Intermediate TB Areas
All animals moving in to have a PrMT.
Cattle moving in from a higher or similar disease risk area will require a PoMT. High risk herds identified and tested every six months.
Clear-tested IRs restricted to their herd for the rest of their lives.
Badger vaccination when the vaccine is available.
High TB Areas
Expansion of Cymorth TB to provide free veterinary advice to all herds.
Biosecurity Improvement Notices will be issued for all OTFW breakdowns.
Appropriate interventions in wildlife.
Whole herd tests done at six-month intervals.
More restrictive herd movement controls.
Removal of standard IRs as reactors in all breakdowns. Clear-tested severe IRs restricted to the herd for life.
Repeated mandatory testing for herds with breakdowns in the previous 18 months
Welsh Government statement from Lesley Griffiths June 2017
From the 1st October this year, Low, Intermediate, and High TB Areas will be established in Wales based on bovine TB incidence levels.
Enhanced measures will be applied in each TB Area tailored to protect the Low TB Area and reduce the disease in the Intermediate and High TB Areas. This follows consideration of the responses to a consultation launched at the end of last year. The Cabinet Secretary continues to rule out large scale culling of badgers that is being applied in England. Speaking at the Senedd, the Cabinet Secretary said:
“Over the last few years, we have made real progress towards eradicating TB in Wales. The number of new incidents has fallen by over 40% since its peak in 2009 and currently, 95% of herds in Wales are TB free. “I have listened to the industries responses to our consultation and have fed what was appropriate and reasonable into the Programme.This should not be seen as exclusively a Government plan; it has been developed through consultation with industry and will be reviewed over time. I now call on the farming industry and veterinary profession to play a full part. Together we can achieve our goal of a TB free Wales.”
On 28th September 2017, the Welsh Government published the Welsh TB Eradication Delivery Plan. From 1 October 2017, all cattle moved into the Low TB Area will require a PoMT. This includes any cattle moved from the High Risk and Edge Areas in England. Following the review, the intention is to extend this policy to the Intermediate TB Areas in October 2018.
From 1 October 2017, all cattle moved into the Low TB Area will require a PoMT. This includes any cattle moved from the High Risk and Edge Areas in England. Following a review, the intention is to extend this policy to the Intermediate TB Areas in October 2018.
To see the full details click here http://gov.wales/docs/drah/publications/170809-tb-eradication-programme-delivery-plan-en.pdf