The Welsh Assembly Government’s 15-month initiative to test all cattle herds in Wales for bovine TB, which ended on December 31, has been hailed a resounding success by rural affairs minister Elin Jones.

The Welsh Assembly Government’s 15-month initiative to test all cattle herds in Wales for bovine TB, which ended on December 31, has been hailed a resounding success by rural affairs minister Elin Jones.

Health Check Wales was established to test Wales’ 13,130 cattle herds to gain a more accurate picture of the spread of bovine TB across Wales. It was part of the Welsh Assembly Government’s comprehensive package of measures aimed at eradicating the disease in Wales.

TB testAll herds in Wales have now had a TB test during the past 15 months or have a test booked for early in the New Year.

As a result of TB Health Check Wales, the number of overdue tests has been reduced from 711 at the beginning of the programme, to just six at the end of November 2009. The December statistics will be available at the end of January.

The initiative has also resulted in the slaughter of 185 infected cattle from 96 herds previously thought to be free from bovine TB. Sixty two of these herds were located in North Wales, an area not previously considered to have a significant bovine TB problem.

Welsh rural affairs minister, Elin JonesMrs Jones said: “Not only has TB Health Check Wales given us a clear picture of disease levels in Wales, but it has helped to stop the disease from establishing itself in new areas. This is due to early identification of incidents of the disease, and rapid removal of the sources of infection.

“TB Health Check Wales has had a real impact in areas such as North Wales, where bovine TB  was not thought to be a significant problem. Prior to this initiative, cattle in the area were only tested every four years. Thanks to Health Check Wales, herds in these areas have been tested, and removed if infected, much sooner.”

Welsh CVO Christianne GlossopThe minister thanked vets and farmers for their co-operation during the course of the initiative, and congratulated Animal Health for delivering the programme on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government.

Welsh chief vet Christianne Glossop said: “Bovine TB is a serious animal health and welfare issue for both cattle and badgers. As with any animal health problem we need to identify the problem and get rid of it quickly to stop infection from spreading.

“We need to remember that there has over 11,000 new cases of herds going down with TB in Wales this year. This is on top of the farms that were already under restrictions. So while the Health Check has helped us contain the disease in some areas, in the areas where the disease is now endemic, we need to use different measures.”

Tony Edwards, director for Animal Health (Wales), thanked vets and farmers for their support in completing the tests on time. He said: “Animal Health could not have done this without the support and co-operation of the vets who carried out the testing programme on our behalf. Their tireless work, and the results they have achieved, will have a significant impact on how bovine TB is managed in Wales in the future.

“I would also like to thank the farmers who, through their support and willingness to co-operate closely with our vets, made it possible for Animal Health to complete the testing programme to a high standard and to the deadline for completion set by the Welsh Assembly Government.

The final statistics from Health Check Wales will be published at the end of January 2010. The data from HCW will be analysed and published, and will include identifying the probable origins of each new outbreak.

From January 1, while the data is analysed, all cattle herds in Wales require an annual test and a further test prior to movement. This ensures Welsh farmers are compliant with new regulations on moving cattle from Wales to Scotland as a result of Scotland’s Officially TB Free status.

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