Major trials of a "world-leading" bovine tuberculosis vaccine are set to get under way in Wales and England.

The Welsh Government has said the trials mark a "major breakthrough" in dealing with bovine TB, one of the great trheats the industry has faced in recent years, and which has led to the slaughter of thousands of cattle.

The trials, which will take place in Wales and England, will enable work to accelerate towards planned deployment of a cattle vaccine by 2025.

TB is one of the most complex and difficult animal health challenges Wales and England face today. In Wales alone, more than 12,000 cattle were slaughtered in 2019 due to TB.

Across Powys there were 150 new incidents of bovine TB in the 12 months to April, of which 76 were in the north of the county and 48 were in the middle.

The year also saw 955 animals slaughtered in northern Powys because of the disease, as well as 343 in Mid Powys and 146 in South Powys. The geographical areas are defined by Defra.

An effective cattle vaccine has the potential to become a powerful tool in the battle against the disease following the necessary testing and safety and efficiency approvals.

Previous efforts to combat the disease have included a cull of badgers.

The field trials will be conducted over the next four years on behalf of the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government and Defra, following 20 years of research into bovine TB vaccines and diagnostic tests by government scientists.

Professor Glyn Hewinson, now Ser Cymru Chair at the TB Centre of Excellence at the University of Aberystwyth, continues to play a key role in this important work.

The Minister said: “TB eradication is a priority for Wales, we have been building our programme for over 10 years and we have always seen cattle vaccination as an important tool, which is as yet, unexploited.

“Over the last 10 years we have seen a reduction in the number of TB incidents of 44 per cent, and are working towards TB freedom by 2041, cattle vaccination could help us achieve that.”

The chief veterinary officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop, said: “Bovine TB is the biggest animal health challenge we face. It causes significant trauma to our farmers and rural communities.

“We have always recognised vaccination could play a key role in TB eradication. Thanks to years of ground-breaking research by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, along with Professor Hewinson, these new trials may provide us with another tool in our fight to stamp out this damaging disease.”