A Powys Famer who has been dealing with Bovine TB in his herd for 16 years is finally free of the dreaded disease.

John Corfield has been farming a mixed herd of 300 pedigree Holstein Friesians in Forden near Welshpool for over 30 years, after starting from the age of 16.

The farm - which has been in John’s family for three generations was initially struck down in 2006 - and only got the all clear at the turn of this year.

He was speaking as figures revealed a fall in TB levels in Powys cattle, while the county remains a high-risk area.

“At the time this was something new to us, initially we lost a dozen or so animals,” said John. “We didn’t really have any idea at the time how long we were going to be dealing with this, we thought it was something we were going to be in and out of relatively quickly.

“It ebbs and flows and a lot of the time. You’ll have a good test and think ‘great were really improving’. Then the next test you can have a load of inconclusives or reactors. That went on for years.”


Proactive measures were brought in by the Welsh Government in 2017 - including gamma blood tests.

“It soon became more apparent that we were going to be losing a lot more animals," said John.

"I think if you can try and get on top of it and weed out any animals which may be infected that can only be a good thing for herds in the long term. But in the short term its quite soul destroying.

“A couple of years ago we did a gamma test and over the course of the year I think we lost about 60 or 70 animals.”

John said such decisions were “heart-breaking” and bringing in animals was full of risk as if they got infected he would lose half their value. As such planning ahead was difficult as it takes three years from inseminating a cow to getting a milking animal.

“It can be just really miserable," said John.

"You breed all these animals and you just send them off for slaughter before they see their potential. You just have this cloud hanging over you, you have no autonomy."

“If you take animals 3km beyond your shed, when they are brought back they are considered ‘brought in animals’ and you are penalised on them.

“There’s constant cleaning and disinfecting. You have this constant testing programme where animals have to be handled more than they otherwise would. There’s stresses and losses from that such as maybe early pregnancies that you lose – it’s a big ordeal.”

Powys is currently rated as a high-risk bovine TB area with 132 incidents recorded in the last year, this however is a drop of nearly 40 per cent in the last five years.

The Welsh Government says it is “determined” to eradicate the disease and is offering “ongoing assistance to farmer support and mental health networks, and staff training.”  

A government spokesperson added: "We are also clear Government cannot eradicate TB alone. Partnership working with our farmers and vets is crucial to reach our shared goal of a TB-free Wales.”

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NFU Cymru, however, is pushing for more action and has criticised the Welsh Government's latest plan.

Recent NFU research found that 85 per cent of Welsh farmers said bovine TB was impacting on their or their family's mental health.

NFU Cymru Dairy Board Chairman Jonathan Wilkinson, who farms in Meifod, said: “90 per cent of farmers felt the Welsh Government’s approach to bovine TB eradication was fairly poor or very poor.

"Despite their best efforts on-farm to keep the disease out, many farmers are in a state of despair at being at the mercy of the ‘bovine TB lottery’ and it is clear that Welsh Government’s eradication strategy is doing little to inspire farmers’ confidence in a change in fortunes.

“It is critically important that future policy decisions on bovine TB are based solely on scientific evidence and not influenced by politics.”