Bovine TB provided the major discussion point as Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales Dr Richard Irvine addressed members at this year’s NFU Cymru Pembrokeshire County Conference.

The event, held at the Wolfscastle Country Hotel on January 16, saw a large turnout from local farmers who had come to hear the government’s lead veterinary scientist speak.

Dr Irvine began by giving a general background to bovine TB in Wales. He emphasised that the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government forbids the culling of badgers to control the spread of TB in cattle. Instead, disease control is focussed towards herd biosecurity and the vaccination of badgers.

The Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) focused on the changing disease picture in the High TB Area West. He stated that whilst levels of the disease in the area as a whole had reduced since 2019, there were parts of Pembrokeshire where the disease picture had deteriorated.

Throughout his presentation, Dr Irvine championed a ‘prevention is better than the cure’ approach to disease control in Wales, referencing the key principles of keep it out, find it fast, stop it spreading and eradicate it.

Dr Irvine stressed that effective partnerships between vets and farmers were key in efforts to manage the disease.

He also discussed vaccination programmes that had taken place in Wales, including the most recent work vaccinating badgers on Holy Island, Anglesey.

The audience was then given a presentation on the Pembrokeshire Project by Brendan Griffin of Iechyd Da and Fenton Vets, supported by fellow project vets Jon Wheeler and Mike John.

This pilot initiative is based on promoting a closer link between 15 Pembrokeshire farms and their vets in order to better manage risk in the herd.

As part of this discussion, Cosheston farmer and NFU Cymru Bovine TB Focus Group Chairman Roger Lewis, who has also been heavily involved in the development and implementation of the project, gave the meeting an account of his experiences of managing his herd in the manner promoted by the project.

NFU Cymru Deputy President Abi Reader also spoke to the audience and detailed NFU Cymru’s lobbying on bovine TB and other areas of the union’s work.

She commended the work of the NFU Cymru Bovine TB Focus Group in detailing to Welsh Government the varied challenges faced by Welsh farmers hamstrung by bovine TB.

In particular, she stressed to the CVO the difficulties faced by Pembrokeshire farmers whose farms are restricted by bovine TB and balancing these challenges with meeting the latest requirements of the Welsh Government water quality regulations.

Abi Reader also discussed the ongoing threat of Avian Influenza to Welsh poultry producers.

Specific mention was given to the concerns of Welsh free range egg producers over proposed changes which could see Welsh producers subject to different labelling requirements in the event disease outbreak.

NFU Cymru Communications Manager Daniel Johns also provided members with a presentation highlighting the union’s consumer survey work and how this was used to lobby Welsh Government.

Speaking after the meeting, NFU Cymru Pembrokeshire County Chairman Simon Davies said: “We are grateful to have had Dr Irvine in attendance at our county conference. Given the significant impact the disease is having on farming families in this part of Wales, it was good to see so many members in attendance to hear what the Chief Vet had to say.

“We are also thankful to Brendan Griffin, Mike John and Jon Wheeler for their insightful presentation on the Pembrokeshire Project.

“I would also like to commend the 15 farms who have signed up to the project, an excellent example of the industry working together to seek to find solutions to this horrendous disease.

“While this project is still in its infancy, it was good to hear about this approach to managing the herd and we hope to receive further updates of positive progress with the project in future months.”