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What can be done to eradicate bovine TB in Wales?

Credit: PA

Bovine TB is an on-going problem for many farmers in Wales.

It's an infectious disease that can be passed on from badgers.

The Welsh Government has carried out a consultation on what should be done to control its spread but the results have not yet been published.

One farmer says the uncertainty is tough for his business.

Mark Williams has farmed near Welshpool for years.

It's a rewarding job but a hard one, made tougher by the presence of bovine TB.

It's becoming a bigger and bigger problem. It gets closer and closer, and it's only a matter of time before you go down with TB.

We became clear of TB in the autumn, and restrictions were lifted, but we've just had confirmation that we've had an animal go down with Bovine TB in the last couple of weeks.

It is just really really difficult to operate a business under the strict movement restrictions that we have.

– Mark Williams, farmer

95% of Welsh cattle herds are now TB-free.

Areas like mid and West Wales still face outbreaks of the disease.

Under new plans, the Welsh Government proposes dividing Wales into areas of low, medium and high TB outbreaks.

Places with repeated cases would be given their own 'action plans', and may face stricter controls.

In certain cases, badgers - a major carrier of TB - could be trapped and culled where it can be proven they have the disease.

We all recognise bovine TB has a significant financial and social impact on farm businesses and the wider rural economy and we remain committed to eradicating the disease in Wales.

The Cabinet Secretary is considering all responses to the recent consultation on our Bovine TB Eradication Programme and will be making a statement on the next steps in the summer.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

In recent years, the focus has been on trapping and vaccinating badgers instead.

Badger vaccination being carried out in Pembrokeshire

Wildlife groups say this is still a better option.

I don't think there's any question that everybody is signed up to wanting to eradicate bovine TB. We recognise that it's a massive problem for the agricultural community and for us as owners of livestock.

But we really don't want to see is badger culling, because it means that when you do cull badgers it can make the disease worse, because of how it affects badger behaviour.

– Lizzie Wilberforce, Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales

Farming unions want a change in policy, but warn the consequences of any new plan will be felt for years.

What we're looking to make sure is we get the right decision this time. We've had a number of years now of additional cattle controls, and we've still failed to address the problem in wildlife.

What we want to see is healthy cattle, and healthy wildlife, but also how we can break the link that we see between cattle and wildlife in Wales

– Dylan Morgan, NFU Cymru