Wales’ first minister has ruled out badger culling as a future strategy for tackling bovine TB, provoking fury among farmers whose herds have been devastated by the disease.

Mark Drakeford said there would be no culling in Wales under the Labour-led administration, insisting that vaccination is the best approach for tackling the disease.

Farmers including those in Pembrokeshire, which is categorised as a ‘high risk’ TB area in the Welsh government’s TB eradication strategy, have been angered by his comments.

Writing on Twitter, Crymych dairy farmer Linda James said: “He [Mark Drakeford] has no idea. We are a closed herd, no nose-to-nose contact with other cattle.

“We go down with TB every other year or so. Plenty of badgers on our land, though. So, Mr Drakeford, explain.”

Mr Drakeford set out his position during a debate in the Senedd.

He was responding to a call by shadow Welsh rural affairs secretary Janet Finch-Saunders for the introduction of a badger cull – there has been one operating in England since 2013.

But Mr Drakeford ruled this out, suggesting that farmers buying in cattle was the “single greatest reason why low-incidence areas have moved up a very sad hierarchy”.

“Culling of badgers will not happen in Wales. Just be clear about that – it was in the Labour Party manifesto, it was endorsed by the electorate. It will not happen,’’ he said.

“And if we want a serious debate, it is better for farmers to recognise that, and again to talk with us about things that we can do, rather than complaining about things that are not going to happen.”

Mr Drakeford suggested cattle vaccination as a “far better long-term solution”.

This, he said, was why the Welsh Government had employed “world-leading figures in this field”, including Glyn Hewinson and his colleagues at the Centre of Excellence for bovine TB at Aberystwyth University.

“The way of dealing with it is through the new methods that we are working on here in Wales and not by harking after things that are simply not going to be part of our response here,” said Mr Drakeford.

Farmers have been left “absolutely speechless” and “disgusted” by his comments.

Cattle in Wales are already subject to pre- and post-movement TB testing using the tuberculin skin test but this is understood to miss about 20 per cent of infected cows.

Vale of Glamorgan dairy farmer Abi Reader, who recently lost 21 cows to bovine TB, tweeted in response to Mr Drakeford’s statement: “No cattle move off farm without a pre-movement test as set out by Welsh Government regulations. Are you suggesting the test is not good enough to detect TB?”