Farm leaders are calling on the Welsh Government to step up its efforts to tackle the ongoing bovine TB crisis.

At the Welsh Dairy Show in Carmarthen, the consequences of the disease on farms in this high risk TB region was evident.

Six farmers who regularly exhibit their cattle at this showcase event for the Welsh dairy industry were absent because they are subject to TB movement restrictions.

“We are about 35-40 cattle down because exhibitors who have supported the show in the past are unable to be here,’’ said show chairman Colin Evans, who produces milk from a herd of Holsteins and Jerseys at Bancyfelin.

“We are missing them but whilst the consequences for the show are for one day these farmers have to live with TB every day of the week.’’

Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) president Glyn Roberts said recent research continues to support the union’s position that cattle controls alone cannot solve the TB problem in Wales.

“A study published in Scientific Reports journal this month assessed the real effects of the four-yearly culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset between 2013-2017. The results overwhelmingly demonstrate that culling reduces the level of TB in cattle,” he said.

He pointed out that four years after the introduction of badger culling, the level of bovine TB in cattle reduced by 66 per cent in Gloucestershire and 37 per cent in Somerset.

“Moreover, current data on the edge of the cull areas showed no negative perturbation effects. The Welsh cattle industry continues to operate under a heavy burden of cattle controls that have yet to make a significant impact on the levels of bovine TB in cattle.’’

In the 12 months to April 2019 11,977 cattle were slaughtered in Wales because of bovine TB.

The disease was not the only issue occupying the minds of farmers attending the show.

The absence of liquid milk processing facilities in Wales is a major concern and is leaving many dairy farming businesses exposed, according to NFU Cymru milk board chairman Gareth Richards, who farms at Carmarthen.

Following the closure of the Tomlinsons plant, the last major bottling plant in Wales, the liquid milk industry in Wales is “completely broken’’, he said.

“We are now seeing the fallout of that. I fear that Tomlinsons is not going to be the last processor going out of business and when a processor goes it tends to take with it some of its suppliers because these farmers are losing six to seven weeks of milk.

“It is a very insecure time and it is something that really does concern me, it is a ticking time bomb.’’

It had created a situation where the ability of farmers to secure a milk contract could depend on where they are positioned geographically.

“We are very reliant on the liquid market. We mustn’t let retailers run things, we need to spread our wings,’’ urged NFU Cymru deputy president Aled Jones.

But while there were concerns, there was also optimism for the long-term future of milk production.

Rheinallt Harries, who is 31 and was named as the NFU Cymru Dairy Stockperson of the Year at the show, believed he had every reason to be optimistic.

“There are definitely some challenging times ahead but personally I am optimistic. We sell good quality products which we should be very proud of and the demand globally is there,’’ said Mr Harries, who produces milk from a spring calving herd at Bethlehem, Carmarthen.

“I am confident in the industry and in the product we sell. We are adding a bit of value by producing high constituent milk and aim to sell as good a quality product as possible.’’