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Badgers and Bovine Tuberculosis

Volume 704: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many cattle are likely to be culled in the next three years following their decision not to cull tuberculosis-infected badgers; and at what projected cost to farmers and the taxpayer. [HL5634]

My department has not attempted to estimate the numbers of cattle likely to be slaughtered under the bovine tuberculosis (TB) control regime in the next three years, or the likely costs.

It is very difficult to make such forecasts due to the chronic, multifactorial and insidious nature of bovine TB. The number of cattle slaughtered as TB reactors and direct contacts largely depends on (i) the underlying prevalence of the infection in the cattle (and badger) population and (ii) the intensity and accuracy of the TB screening programme for cattle herds. The former is subject to cyclical changes in the endemic TB areas that are difficult to predict, whereas the latter is subject to annual changes as TB herd testing frequencies are reviewed every year in response to the incidence of herd breakdowns in the previous years. Furthermore, the enhancements to the TB testing regime introduced over the past two years (such as pre-movement testing and gamma-interferon blood testing) are expected to result in higher numbers of reactors being identified each year, at least in the short to medium term.

In relation to costs, compensation rates and salvage income will vary over time with market prices.