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.

Tackling Bovine TB

01 June 2016

Article by Nia Seaton, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Rapid action to tackle Bovine TB is a top priority for many farm businesses. What early policy decisions will face the new Welsh Government?

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 and Rural Affairs (Defra) estimated the cost of Bovine TB breakdown to be £30,000 per herd.

The latest statistics for Wales show that 8,103 cattle were slaughtered in 2015 as a result of the disease and 837 cattle herds suffered from a new breakdown of the disease. While these figures have decreased since their peak in 2009, the numbers are still significantly higher than they were 20 years ago. Previous Welsh Governments have adopted a range of policies aimed at eradicating the disease and the new Welsh Government will need to make an early decision about the future direction of its policy in this area.

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?Line chart showing number of new herd incidences overlying bar chart showing number of cattle slaughtered.

The graph shows the changes in the number of new incidences in herds of Bovine TB in Wales over the last ten years, 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 the latest figures for 2015 show an increase in the number slaughtered since 2014.

What policies and strategies did the previous Welsh Governments adopt?

The previous Welsh Government had a Bovine TB Eradication Programme that was made up of a number of different elements. These included: 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 were 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 included 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, continued uncertainty over the future supply of the vaccine means that badger vaccination in the short term is unlikely to be a viable policy option.

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 wished in future to pursue a cull in the Intensive Action Area or in other parts of Wales, it would 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.

What happens next?

Decisions about the future direction of this policy will be a key priority for the next five years. 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. It will be for the new Welsh Government to decide whether it continues with the current eradication programme or adopts a different approach.

Key Sources:

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How have farm incomes changed in Wales in the last ten years?

10 February 2016

Article by Rachel Prior, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Picture of sheep

Image from Flickr by walkinguphills. Licensed under the Creative Commons

The Welsh Government has recently published Welsh farm income figures for 2014-15.

You can see the latest figures on the Welsh Government website here: Farm incomes, 2014-5

In the last year, dairy farm incomes in Wales have reduced by ten per cent to £70,200, lowland cattle and sheep farm incomes reduced by four per cent to £27,800. However, there was an increase of 20 per cent in cattle and sheep farms in ‘Less Favoured Areas’ (LFAs) to £23,300. This gives an overall mean across all farm types of a small decrease from 2013-14, of one per cent to £29,400.

The Welsh Government defines Farm Business Income (FBI) as:

…the return to all unpaid labour (farmers, spouses, non-principal partners, family workers and others with an entrepreneurial interest in the farm business) and to all their capital invested in the farm business including land and farm buildings…

FBI is therefore roughly equivalent to Net Profit, in a farming context.

FBI takes into account all subsidies, e.g. Common Agricultural Policy payments, any profit as a result of diversification of the farmland, and costs such as fuel, rent, animal feed and paid labour. It is used as a key indicator of the state of the farming sector by the Welsh Government. The graph below shows mean FBI for a number of farming sectors in Wales since 2003, adjusted to today’s prices.

welsh farm income graph

 

Data from Welsh Government reports on farm incomes, including past releases. Adjusted to today’s prices based on UK Treasury GDP deflators.

Despite the decrease in FBI for dairy farmers since last year, the general trend over the last 12 years has been a turbulent increase with significant variation year on year. Dairy farm incomes have risen by around £35,000 on average in the last decade (in real terms, 2014-15 prices).

For cattle and sheep farmers in both lowland and LFAs (Less Favoured Areas is an EU term used to describe land that is unfavourable to farming for a range of geographical reasons such as poor weather or soil, high altitude or mountainous), the story is somewhat different, with very little change overall – a slight decrease for famers in LFAs, and a slight increase for farmers in lowland areas. There was again some changeability year on year, with better years in 2009-10 and 2011-12 for both groups.

The average for all farm types over the last 10-12 years shows a few favourable years between 2007 and 2012, but little change overall between 2003-04 and 2014-15.

This is very high-level data, and there are further complexities which are important to take into consideration when interpreting it. For example, this data is for a mean of all farms within that type. Although dairy farms seem to have by far the largest income, that could be as a result of a larger mean size compared to cattle and sheep farms. In addition, the use of the mean masks the potential for large variation within the sample: for example, in 2014-15, 11 per cent of dairy farms failed to make a profit, whereas 45 per cent made more than £75,000.

Recently, more support has been made available to dairy farmers in Wales due to low prices and the impact that has had on farm incomes. A total of €420 million was made available from the European Commission to directly support dairy and livestock farmers across the EU. Welsh farmers received £3.2 million of this, which was allocated to dairy farmers proportionally based on how much milk they produced in the year 2014-15. The average payment to Welsh dairy farms was £1,800, the payment of which began on 16 November.

Of cattle and sheep farms in LFAs, the percentage of those failing to make a profit is nearly 20 per cent, for lowland sheep and cattle farms it is around 17 per cent. Overall 19 per cent of all farms did not make a profit in 2014-15.

A summary of The Farm Business Survey of 2014-15, undertaken in Wales by the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University also records a significant difference in profitability between the average farm in a category, and a farm in the top third of its category. The top third of the most profitable hill sheep farms made twice as much per hectare as the average farm in that category, while in dairy farming the figure is more extreme with the top-third most profitable being six times as much as the average.

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