A region of Wales with historically low levels of bovine TB has recorded its highest number of herd breakdowns in ten years.

North-west Wales, classified as a low TB area in Wales’ TB eradication programme, has historically had persistently low levels of TB.

But in the first quarter of 2020 there was an increase in incidence, prevalence and reactors, according to the data published by the Welsh Government.

At 27 open incidents and 60 TB reactors, the numbers are very low compared to other Welsh regions but the trend is a worrying one.

The area, which includes Mold, Llangollen and Wrexham, is the only region of Wales where cattle don’t need to have a pre-movement test if they are moving from or within that area.

But herds which have recently had a TB breakdown or are subject to contiguous testing do need this test until they return to normal surveillance testing.

Overall, Wales has seen a small fall in the number of cattle herds with bovine TB, according to the latest Welsh Government statistics.

A total of 94.7 per cent of herds were officially TB-free in the first quarter of 2020 compared to 94.2 per cent in this period in 2019.

But, as with the low TB area, there is also an upward trend in infection rates in north-east Wales.

Of the 920 herds in this intermediate north TB zone, 6.4 per cent of herds were restricted compared to 2 per cent – 4 per cent before 2016.

A cluster of breakdowns near the English border is being cited as a reason for a spike in open incidents to 59.

In November 2018, the government introduced contiguous testing of cattle herds in the intermediate north zone following a big rise in bovine TB incidents.

Most TB breakdowns in Wales continue to be in the high TB areas in the east and west of the country.

There were 175 open incidents in high TB area east, down by four on the first quarter of 2019; it showed a slight increase in the number of TB-free herds – 93.7 per cent compared to 93.2 per cent.

In high TB west, there were 313 open incidents, down 35 on the previous period, but, at 1336, this region had by far the highest number of TB reactors.

Herd prevalence in this area has fallen in the last two quarters though – there were 9.8 TB restricted herds per 100 herds.

Another issue the statistics flag up is the number of recurring breakdowns – of the herd breakdowns closed in Wales during the first quarter of 2018, 29 per cent of these farms have since had a recurrence.

Dairy herds have the highest number of infections – of the 2,275 herds in Wales, 15.7 per cent were under restriction in the first quarter of 2020.

In comparison, this figure is 2.5 per cent for the 9,083 beef herds in Wales.