This week’s column is one that is extremely difficult for me to write. As Chairman of NFU Cymru’s Dairy Board, watching the heartbreaking piece on S4C’s Ffermio showing the devastating impact bovine TB is having on farmers up and down the country, was particularly tough to watch, writes NFU Cymru Dairy Board Chairman Jonathan Wilkinson.

The item, which I am sure many of you will have seen along with the clips on social media and the piece on Newyddion, shows the heartache of a farming family in Carmarthenshire who had to have 18 cows, some in calf, shot on the yard due to bovine TB.

For those of us who have been unlucky enough to have had to witness this on our own farms it is a stark reminder of those dark days, and for those who are slightly more removed from the farming industry it will have been a shock, I am sure. Either way, more has to be done to prevent this happening. Not only does this awful disease have an economic impact on farmers, but the devastation of having to watch your cows, many of which you have raised from birth, be shot in front of you has a massive impact on your mental health and well-being.

An NFU Cymru survey from the autumn polled over 500 cattle farmers and 85% of respondents said bovine TB had negatively impacted their own mental health of someone in their family, over 93% said they were ‘extremely concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about bovine TB and 89% stated Welsh Government’s approach to bovine TB eradication was ‘very poor’ or ‘fairly poor.’ As part of the survey, members were also asked for their views on factors influencing bovine TB transmission. An overwhelming 88.9% of those surveyed said they thought wildlife, such as badgers and deer, were an ‘extremely strong’ or ‘strong’ influence in TB transmission.

As a union we have long campaigned that to eradicate this devastating disease it needs to be tackled in all vectors including wildlife, and not just cattle. Evidence from around the world has shown that Bovine TB can only be tackled through the implementation of a comprehensive TB eradication programme. Welsh Government say they will ‘follow the science’ this simply isn’t happening, and cattle continue to be slaughtered while the disease remains rampant in other vectors.

For many farmers it feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel and despite doing all they can, the disease continues to cause anguish and dread amongst the farming community. More needs to be done for there to be an effective eradication strategy that brings an end to the suffering bovine TB is causing to cattle, wildlife and farming families.

Anyone who is struggling with their mental health should contact one of the many services available here in Wales for more support including The DPJ Foundation, RABI, FCN and Tir Dewi. More information on bovine TB can be found on the NFU Cymru website.