By Debbie James

With new measures to eradicate bovine TB in Wales set to be announced this month, one dairy farmer who has lost more than a third of his pedigree milking herd to the disease has issued a personal plea to the Welsh Government.

Andrew Griffiths, who has land both in and out of the Intensive Action Area (IAA) and has lost 50 of his 130 pedigree milking cows to TB since October, appealed to the government to implement a badger cull in the worst affected areas of Wales.

“Unless they start culling the diseased wildlife in these areas we are never going to be rid of TB,’’ insists Mr Griffiths, a Farmers’ Union of Wales member who runs the Carwyn herd of Holsteins near New Moat.

His comments follow the publication of a report that suggests that bovine TB incidence in the north Pembrokeshire IAA had fallen by more than a third since the zone with its stricter cattle controls, improved biosecurity, badger vaccination and testing of all goats and camelids was established in 2010.

The proportion of herds under restriction for bovine TB in the IAA has also fallen to 14.3 per cent, compared with 22.3 per cent in 2010, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) report states.

In a statement, the cabinet secretary for environment and rural affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said all the measures used in the IAA had had a positive impact on bovine TB.

“This is further evidence our approach to reducing the incidence of TB is working, with numbers of new incidents now at their lowest in 12 years.”

The government also believed that the report reinforced the fact that a recent increase in the number of cattle slaughtered across Wales because of bovine TB did not reflect a worsening situation.

Instead, it said the rise is largely due to an increase in the use of the more sensitive gamma interferon blood test and more severe interpretation of the skin test.

But Berwyn Lloyd, a beef producer who farms in the IAA and has lost 20 cattle to bovine TB in the last 12 months, is unconvinced by the evidence in the report.

Mr Lloyd’s herd of 140 Continental-cross cows is under severe interpretation and he said several of his neighbours are in a similar position.

He doesn’t buy in stock and his cattle have no ‘nose-to-nose’ contact with other herds.

“We were clear of TB when the IAA was established but it has been a cloud over us ever since. Most of our neighbours are in and out of TB too, I don’t feel we are better off, we are worse off,’’ says Mr Lloyd, of Pencwm Farm, Moylegrove, near Cardigan.

Badgers were trapped and vaccinated on his land for four years but he reckons it was futile because of the vast numbers of badgers on his farm.

“I can’t remember how many they caught but so much of this area is wooded and inaccessible. They grossly under-estimated the number of badgers in this area,’’ said Mr Lloyd.

While NFU Cymru president Stephen James welcomed the figures in the APHA report, he said any improvement needed to be put in context against the number of herd incidents and level of disease in the area – at least double of that in the comparison area.