Bovine TB continues to be a significant issue for farmers across Wales and it is a subject we care about deeply. It has been around 13 months since the establishment of the regionalised TB programme in Wales and although the programme is still at an early stage, the data available does not show any significant decline in TB levels.

Let’s look at some of the statistics - data from TB dashboard shows that 94.8 per cent of herds were TB free in Quarter 2, 2018, which is a fall compared with the same time in the previous year (94.9 per cent).

However, data from Defra also shows that the number of cattle slaughtered in Wales between August 2017 and August 2018 was just over 10,000. This is a rise of 2.3 per cent on the following year. Similarly the number of disease restricted herds in Wales has risen from 799 to 824 over the same time period and last year there was a 75 per cent increase in TB incidents on the previous 12 months in the Intermediate TB Area North.

In response, Welsh Government announced that contiguous herds in this area would be subject to further two contiguous tests at 6 month intervals. We remain concerned that the ‘go-to’ position for TB control in Wales continues to centre upon increases in cattle testing, despite a frustrating lack of progress on tackling the disease in wildlife.

With all of this in mind, we also remain concerned about the farm-level information provided on the Wales ‘ibTB’ bovine TB mapping information system. This information system remains open to the public and can leave individual farms, including chronic breakdown herds, vulnerable to anti-cull extremists.

We have written to the Cabinet Secretary on this issue in October and November this year and publically reiterated these concerns at the recent ibTB workshop. All but one stakeholder attending that workshop in Wales supported the FUW stance on this issue. I can assure members that we will continue to press for a system which ensures restricted access to the information on ibTB.

Given the numerous policy and regulatory changes relating to bovine TB control in Wales, we are clear that there needs to be improved consultation and engagement with industry on the ‘next steps’.

The future of TB control in Wales must include a review of the current measures being undertaken in order to determine if they are fit-for-purpose.