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Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
New measures in cattle TB crackdown
A cow on a farm with bovine TB
Up to 5,000 cows still need to be tested for TB
Farmers in Wales are facing a cattle tuberculosis crackdown under a tougher testing programme designed to kill off the disease.

A new blood test is to be trialled and skin test results will receive more harsh scrutiny in a bid to halt the spread of bovine TB.

Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones said Wednesday he was rolling out the programme over the summer to reduce a rise in cases which began in 1990.

Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones
Carwyn Jones denies TB will cause another crisis
Conventional cattle tests were suspended during the foot-and-mouth crisis due to farm access restrictions designed to stop that disease.

It has resulted in a backlog of cattle awaiting tests for tuberculosis.

Animals were slaughtered at a Denbighshire farm in April as the number of cases rose to 127 so far this year, compared to 150 throughout 2000.

Testing backlog

The chief veterinary officer for Wales warned that a rise in bovine TB cases could hit the country harder than foot-and-mouth, which crippled many regions.

With restrictions lifted, TB testing has resumed. The backlog of cattle was being "steadily reduced," according to the assembly.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Jones said he was introducing two new measures.

  • The Gamma Interferon blood test will be piloted in some areas alongside the current cattle skin tests

  • He said there would also be a more "severe interpretation" of those skin test results.

That could means vets will be more sceptical when classifying test results.

The European Commission endorsed the interferon drug as a skin test supplement earlier in May.

Reducing risk

Mr Jones said: "The pilots will be introduced as soon as possible and the data used to inform future decisions on policy options.

"The two new measures are important in helping to speed up testing with a view to eliminating the current backlog of tests and reducing the risk of between and within herd spread.

Badger
Farmers blame badgers for the disease spread
"With the co-operation of farmers whose herds have to be tested, we hope to continue to make good progress throughout the summer months,"

Bovine tuberculosis dominated discussions at the Farmers' Union of Wales annual meeting at Aberystwyth.

The minister urged farmers to embrace wholesale change in the industry in order to survive future challenges.

Badger fear

But farmers, including FUW leader Bob Parry, were more interested in the TB issue.

Before the assembly's announcement, he said Carwyn Jones had not gone far enough.

"It is important that we eliminate TB because we want a healthy dairy herd in Wales," Mr Parry said.

"Unless things do improve quickly, I think farmers might take matters into their own hands if they see badgers on their farms."

Last month, farmers' leaders urged the assembly to provide more resources for testing to tackle bovine tuberculosis.

They claim badgers are responsible for spreading tuberculosis to their animals.

But wildlife campaigners have disputed the link and the results of badger culls are not expected for two years, causing union leaders concern.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Bob Parry, FUW
"The dairy industry in Wales is in turmoil"
BBC Wales's Nia Thomas reports
"Farmers need more assurances on action against TB"
BBC Wales' Nia Thomas
reports from Aberystwyth
See also:

30 Apr 02 | UK
23 Apr 02 | Wales
20 Apr 02 | Wales
13 May 02 | Wales
20 Apr 02 | Wales
19 Apr 02 | UK
19 Apr 02 | Wales
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