We recently called on the Welsh Government to undertake a review of the costs and administrative burdens placed upon livestock keepers resulting from the current TB testing regime in Wales, writes FUW Brecon and Radnor Executive Officer Kath Shaw.

The call followed an announcement by the Minister for Rural Affairs which outlined additional testing requirements for the Low and Intermediate risk areas of Wales.

The changes come as part of the 5 year Delivery Plan published earlier this year and from the 1 February 2024, pre-movement testing will be reintroduced into the Low TB Area of Wales, whilst cattle moving into the Intermediate TB Area from the High TB area of Wales, the High Risk Area of England and from Northern Ireland will need a post-movement test. Farmers can still move cattle that have tested clear at a government funded routine surveillance test, such as the annual herd test.

Further testing requirements for cattle will be of little surprise to many farmers given the proposals contained in the last Welsh Government TB consultation. We outlined that the expected impact on cattle welfare and human health and safety, due to the increased gathering and handling required to comply with additional testing proposals, should be determined prior to any additional testing requirements. However we are yet to receive this information.

We recognise the need to protect the Low Risk Area from further disease spread, but the cost-benefit of increased testing must be fully considered. According to data provided by the Welsh Government, between 2017 and 2022 there were over 860,000 pre-movement tests. Of these, just 0576 reactors and 610 inconclusive reactors were disclosed. In the LTBA, there were just 2 reactors over this time period - one in 2020 and one in 2021 - but more than 43,000 pre-movement tests were conducted. Over the same time period in the Intermediate Mid Risk Area, no reactors were disclosed from post movement testing.

The increased costs of these new policies come at a time when the industry is facing potential reductions to the compensation paid to cattle keepers following the compulsory slaughter of cattle infected with bovine TB and we are therefore calling on the Welsh Government to properly analyse the cost-benefit of such proposals and to take a more rounded view of the overall impact on farm businesses prior to implementation.