Environment and rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths says she wants to able set a target date for the eradication of TB in Welsh cattle. Today she's announced a series of further measures aimed at tackling the problem, which currently costs more than £14 million a year in compensation paid to farmers in Wales.
The minister has ruled out a large-scale cull of badgers, which are often blamed by farmers for spreading the disease. But effort will be focussed on 50 to 60 herds, where TB has become a chronic problem. In those cases any badgers found on the farm can be trapped and tested for TB under the new proposals.
Any badgers found to have the disease will be put down. The rest will be chipped and released but could be recaptured and killed if laboratory tests on blood samples show that they were in fact infected.
Mr James added that despite a 40% reduction in infected cattle, the eradication programme had been going backwards because in the high risk areas, more cattle have been slaughtered. Under the Welsh Government's new plan, there'll be more testing and controls in high risk areas, covering much of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Powys and Monmouthshire.
The cap on compensation payments for cattle with TB will be cut from £15,000 per animal to £5,000. In over 90% of cases that won't make any difference but farmers will lose out when a prize bull is slaughtered. The cut in the cap is expected to save about £300,000 a year. It's also hoped that if concentrating on the most infected herds works, the compensation bill will fall further. It was £14,430,000 in the 2016/17 financial year.
That would free up money to tackle the problem more widely and the minister hopes by the end of this year to be able to set a target date for the total eradication of bovine TB in Wales.