Page last updated at 09:20 GMT, Friday, 25 September 2009 10:20 UK

Farmers want badger cull details

A badger
Opponents say a badger cull could make bovine TB worse

Farmers are calling for Welsh ministers to give more details of a proposed badger cull in north Pembrokeshire.

It was announced earlier this year that a pilot cull would take place after thousands of cases of bovine TB were found in cattle in west Wales.

A veterinary conference in Cardiff is expected to discuss how best to tackle the disease.

But opposition groups continue to fight plans for the cull saying that cattle movements are to blame for TB's spread.

The Welsh Assembly Government spent £25m in 2008 on compensation paid to farmers with herds infected with bovine TB.

In the first six months of 2009 almost 8,000 cattle were slaughtered and the assembly government's compensation bill at the end of the year could be almost £30m.

Assembly government officials are currently considering the findings of a public consultation on the cull which closed at the end of July.

It's getting worse and from year to year, but we fully understand that the Welsh Assembly have to go through the proper channels
Dai Davies, NFU Cymru

They are visiting farms and land owners in north Pembrokeshire to try and establish a boundary for the cull of up to 200 square km and decide when it could take place.

The officials are also testing cattle to help them stop the TB infection escalating more than it already is. The disease can be transferred between herds.

Nicky Paull from the British Veterinary Association said it would be helpful for the farming industry to be told more about the plans.

"I think there's huge concern in the general public that badgers are going to be culled but I think we have to put this in perspective," she said.

"This will only be in small areas where it is shown that badgers are a significant contributor to the disease in cattle.

"We need to be absolutely sure that once we go down that route all the other controls are strongly in place so that the cattle to cattle passage of the disease is strongly controlled as well."

Dai Davies, president of the National Farmers Union Cymru, said farmers were frustrated things were not moving faster.

"Farmers have lived with this disease for years. We saw 12,000 cattle slaughtered in Wales last year. It's getting worse and from year to year. But we fully understand that the Welsh Assembly have to go through the proper channels."

Scientific research

Wales' chief vet Dr Christiane Glossop, who will be advising on the cull, said officials had found evidence of bovine TB in areas of Wales where badgers do not appear to be infected.

"(There is) every indication that these new breakdowns are the result of cattle movements," she said.

"Farmers know that. They understand that part of the disease equation here is about circulating infection within cattle herds and between cattle herds."

Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, parts of Powys and south east Wales are bovine TB hot spots.

A new opposition group, Pembrokeshire Against the Cull, said some scientific research found a badger cull would not stop the disease.

Celia Thomas from the group said: "I think most of the research to date shows that cattle movements are such a big part in spreading the disease around so how far can a cull go?

"It is only one element of the wildlife that we are considering here. There may be many others implicated in the spread of the disease."

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