Rising numbers of cattle in Wales with bovine TB could mean a raft of new controls for farmers.

The Welsh Government says it needs to intervene to manage an increase in herd breakdowns – in June 2021 there were 633 new incidents compared to 614 a year ago.

That 3 per cent rise is largely concentrated in north Wales where TB incidence had been low and where eight out of 10 breakdowns are now linked to the movement of infected cattle.

The government has set out what it thinks needs to be done, with all new controls aimed at cattle and just one limited proposal for tackling the disease reservoir in wildlife.

Currently, farmers with herds that test clear after the second of two short interval tests can use that second reading as a movement test but, under proposals being set out in a government consultation, the farm will need another clear test 60 days later before it can move cattle.

The use of the skin test for pre-movement is also under review because there is concern that it is not sensitive enough and could be allowing infected cattle to be moved around the country.

Since 2009 there has been a 48 per cent decrease in TB breakdowns in Wales and in 2020 there were 5.7 new breakdowns per 100 officially TB free (OTF) tests, the lowest annual incidence in 16 years, but the government is taking the rise in cases seriously.

The government is also seeking to ban the feeding of raw milk to livestock on farms under restrictions to prevent infection spreading from dairy cows to youngstock – currently this practice is only advisory.

Compensation paid to farmers for cattle removed from the farm could also be cut because the use of a table valuation system is being proposed.

This system was introduced in England 10 years ago but the industry in Wales has until now been successful in resisting a switch from the current system of individual on-farm valuation based on 100 per cent of market value.

Amid tightening budgets, the government believes it is time to explore this again, pointing to a consistent overspend on the TB eradication budget in Wales over many years.

The new payment system could be linked to health accreditation schemes and biosecurity measures.

But while the government is seeking to impose new controls on cattle there is nothing in the consultation around badger culling, a measure First Minister Mark Drakeford ruled out in June 2021 when he stated that there would be no culling in Wales under the Labour-led administration.

And there will be no return to a fully-funded badger vaccination programme either, even though parts of west Wales where this measure was undertaken for four years continues to experience a significant reduction in TB numbers.

What the government is offering farmers is a 50 per cent grant for their own vaccination programmes, but they would need to apply for this and vaccination is known to be time-consuming and expensive.

The government is phasing out its badger trap-and-test policy which is in place for some farms experiencing persistent herd breakdowns.

This move has been described as a “major step backwards in progress towards eradication’’ by NFU Cymru president John Davies.

“We are deeply frustrated that Welsh Government refuses to learn the lessons from England, and all the other countries in the world, who have successfully tackled this disease through a comprehensive TB eradication strategy,’’ says Mr Davies.

“Welsh Government appears to be unique in its thinking that this disease can be eradicated without proactively dealing with diseased animals in both cattle and wildlife populations.’’

The consultation will run for 12 weeks.