Committee publishes its report on Welsh Government’s new proposals for tackling Bovine TB in Wales

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

This article was originally published on 23 March 2017. It is being reposted ahead of the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs’ statement on 20 June 2017.

What is Bovine TB and what is the disease picture in Wales?

Bovine TB (bovine tuberculosis) is an infectious and chronic disease caused by Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) and usually affects the lungs and lymph nodes of cattle. The latest figures for Wales show that in the 12 months to end January 2017, 10,002 cattle were slaughtered (this includes cattle with the disease and those exposed to M.bovis).

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Committee publishes its report on Welsh Government’s new proposals for tackling Bovine TB in Wales

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

What is Bovine TB and what is the disease picture in Wales?

Bovine TB (bovine tuberculosis) is an infectious and chronic disease caused by Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) and usually affects the lungs and lymph nodes of cattle. The latest figures for Wales show that in the 12 months to end January 2017, 10,002 cattle were slaughtered (this includes cattle with the disease and those exposed to M.bovis).

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Tackling Bovine TB in Wales

14 October 2016

Article by Wendy Dodds, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

Photograph of cows in a Welsh field

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs will set out the Welsh Government’s approach to Bovine TB eradication in a statement to Plenary on 18 October 2016.

Due to its significant impact on animal welfare, farmer welfare and farm business viability, tackling Bovine TB (bovine tuberculosis) is a priority for the agriculture industry in Wales. In 2011, the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) estimated the cost of Bovine TB breakdown to be £30,000 per herd.

This blog post provides some background on the disease, its prevalence in Wales, and how the Welsh Government has sought to tackle it until now.

What is Bovine TB and what are its effects?

Bovine TB is an infectious and chronic disease caused by Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) and usually affects the lungs and lymph nodes of cattle. In most cases infected cattle are able to transmit the disease before they show signs of being unwell, which may be many months after they are infected. Controlling TB therefore depends on detecting and eliminating infected cattle as early as possible. While cattle and badgers are the principle hosts of the disease in the UK, camelids, deer, goats and domestic animals are also susceptible.

How prevalent is Bovine TB in Wales?

The graph shows the changes in the number of new incidences in herds of Bovine TB in Wales between 2005 and 2015, as well as the number of cattle slaughtered over the same period. There was a peak in new herd incidences in 2008-9 with a general downward trend since then. The number of cattle slaughtered has also declined since 2009, but has been increasing since 2013. The latest statistics for Wales show that in the 12 months to June 2016 9,476 cattle were slaughtered as a result of the disease, while 740 cattle herds suffered from a new breakdown of the disease, suggesting this trend is continuing.

wendy-eng

What policies and strategies has the Welsh Government adopted until now?

The Welsh Government has to date adopted a Bovine TB Eradication Programme made up of a number of different elements. These include: annual testing of cattle herds; a wide range of cattle control measures such as pre-movement testing; movement restrictions on infected herds; slaughtering infected animals; and piloting badger vaccination in some areas. Two of the key principles underlining the programme are keeping the disease out of clean farms and identifying infection early.

As part of this programme the Welsh Government established an Intensive Action Area, a 288sq km area located mainly in northern Pembrokeshire, to test different approaches to tackling the disease. These include tighter cattle control measures and a five-year badger vaccination pilot project. The pilot project was due to enter its fifth year in spring 2016 but problems with the global supply of the  vaccine used to inoculate badgers meant that in December 2015 the Welsh Government announced the pilot would be suspended a year early.

The Welsh Government commissioned modelling work to look at the impact of halting the pilot. The modelling work indicated that stopping the project a year early will not have a detrimental effect on its outcomes. However, if supply remains uncertain badger vaccination is unlikely to be a viable policy option in the short term.

In 2011 the Welsh Government passed The Badger (Control Order) (Wales) 2011. This order gave the Welsh Government powers to undertake, if it wished, a badger cull within the Intensive Action Area. However, this order was subsequently revoked in 2012 by John Griffiths, the then Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, following his decision to pursue a badger vaccination policy instead. If the Welsh Government wishes in future to pursue a cull in the Intensive Action Area or in other parts of Wales, it will need to secure support for a new order through the Assembly.

The use of a badger cull to remove the disease in wildlife has been piloted in other parts of the UK but has proved hugely divisive with proponents and opponents of the policy putting forward competing scientific evidence and results.

There has been some work to monitor the impacts of the eradication policies in the Intensive Action Area. A report on the differences in Bovine TB breakdowns between the Intensive Action Area and other parts of Wales between 2010 and 2015 concluded that consistent trends in Bovine TB indicators have yet to been seen, but that more time is needed before any ‘meaningful differences’ in trends between the herds in the Intensive Action Area and Control Area can be identified.

The UK administrations have also funded research into developing cattle vaccines and more sensitive diagnostic tests for the disease in cattle. To inform policy, Welsh Government is also undertaking a dead badger survey to better understand the level of the disease in the badger population in Wales and the relationship between TB infection in badgers and cattle.

What happens next?

The Cabinet Secretary’s statement on future policy will be a significant one for both animal welfare and the agriculture industry. The Fourth Assembly’s Environment and Sustainability Committee drew attention to the issue in its legacy report as one of the most important issues facing agriculture.

As indicated by the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs in debate 28 September 2016, the Welsh Government’s approach will be detailed in an oral statement on 18 October 2016. The Cabinet Secretary said that the refreshed TB programme in Wales will use a combination of the most appropriate and effective measures, proportionate to the different risk areas in Wales. She said all measures will be supported by evidence and veterinary risk assessment and will focus on all routes of transmission.

Bovine tuberculosis compensation: what do the latest figures tell us?

12 November 2014

Article by Katy Orford, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

cows

Image from Flickr by ‘ingolfsalle’. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

On 28 January 2014 the Welsh Government launched a consultation on the introduction of a table-valuation system for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) compensation payments similar to the method in force in England. This followed advice from the European Commission who observed that valuations were significantly higher for animals in Wales compared to England and that they did not reflect market cattle prices.

This table-valuation system would have replaced the system of individual on-farm valuations. Following analysis of the consultation feedback and the concerns raised by stakeholders, the Welsh Government announced last month that it would not be introducing such a system in Wales but would continue with the current system with some amendments such as increased scrutiny and capping payments.

This blog post looks at the current bTB compensation formula, the latest bTB compensation statistics for Wales and changes to the system that will be introduced as a result of the recent announcement.

Calculating bTB compensation payments

Compensation costs associated with bTB are the responsibility of the Welsh Government. The method for calculating the amount of compensation payable is outlined in the Tuberculosis (Wales) Order 2010 (the Order). The value of a slaughtered animal is calculated based on a system of individual on-farm valuations according to the formula given in the Article 26 of the Order:

A x B = C

Where A is the animal’s market value;

B is a figure provided in paragraphs 3-6 (Article 26) of the Order and varies according to different circumstances;

C is the value to be paid in compensation.

Trends in bTB compensation payments

bTB compensation figures

Figure 1. bTB compensation paid to farmers in Wales per financial year. *data up to 30 September 2014. Source: Welsh Government Finance System.

Compensation payments to cattle farmers steadily increased between the 1999-2000 and 2008-2009 financial years (Figure 1). Compensation payments peaked at nearly £24 million during 2008-2009; an increase of 1739% since 1999-2000. From 1999-2000 to the current financial year (up to 30 September 2014) a total of just under £177 million has been spent on bTB compensation.

Compensation paid for pedigree animals has been identified as a significant proportion of the cost as they are responsible for approximately 60% of compensation spent whilst making up around 30% of the animals.

More recently, there has been a decline in annual bTB compensation paid (Figure 1) with £11.8 million spent in the last financial year. This reflects falling incidences of bTB in Wales. From August 2013 to July 2014 there were 826 cases of new herd incidents reported in Wales. This compares to 969 cases reported from August 2012 to July 2013 (a fall of 15%). The numbers of new herd incidents reported between February to June this year were the lowest recorded in any of these months consecutively since 2008 in Wales.

Revised system for bTB Compensation

In its consultation the Welsh Government had proposed that compensation for slaughtered animals would be primarily determined through table-valuations based on market averages for pre-determined cattle categories.

However, following analysis of consultation responses the Welsh Government decided not to adopt a table-valuation system, based on concerns that it would over-value poorer animals and under-value better quality animals. It has decided that a hybrid approach could be difficult to implement and cause confusion as well as being inconsistent. The current system of individual on-farm valuations will therefore continue but with enhancements.

These enhancements will include a system whereby all valuations for pedigree animals worth more than £3,000 will be scrutinised. The maximum payment for any individual animal will be capped at £15,000 to improve the financial stability of the bTB compensation system and to ensure consistent valuations.

In her oral statement the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food stated that when considering the options for a new compensation system the Welsh Government was seeking a system that would:

compensate farmers fairly for the loss of their cattle; to avoid TB compensation being paid at rates of above 100% of the animal’s value; to ensure that the valuation mechanism is cost-effective and financially sustainable for the Welsh Government; and to ensure that compensation payments incentivise farmers to engage effectively in TB prevention measures.