8. Statement by the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd: Controlling BVD in cattle and scab in sheep in Wales

Part of the debate – in the Senedd at 5:37 pm on 31 January 2023.

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Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour 5:37, 31 January 2023

Diolch, Llywydd. The negative impact of bovine viral diarrhoea and sheep scab on animal welfare and the sustainability of our cattle and sheep farms is of great concern. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of our livestock sector stepping up and working together to eradicate these two diseases from Wales. The control, local and, ultimately, national eradication of BVD and sheep scab are priorities of our animal health and welfare framework and are included in its 2022-24 implementation plan.

The Wales animal health and welfare framework, all of which are impacted upon by these two diseases: Wales has healthy productive animals; animals in Wales have a good quality of life; people trust and have confidence in the way food is produced; Wales has a thriving rural economy; Wales has a high-quality environment. Eradicating these two diseases moves us closer to achieving these goals and will hugely benefit the welfare of cattle and sheep in Wales.

Neither BVD nor sheep scab affect people, but we are taking a one-health approach to their control and eradication. This means addressing holistically animal, environmental and human health in all we do. So, our work will benefit the health and welfare of sheep and cattle, and it will also lead to improved environmental health and have a positive impact on the well-being of our sheep and cattle keepers. The one-health approach is more important now than ever as Wales moves closer to the launch of the sustainable farming scheme.

I will start with BVD. We must make every effort to eradicate BVD from our cattle. Many European countries are eradicating the disease, and I want Wales to maintain its status as a high-health producer and we cannot be left behind. This disease causes affected animals to suffer greatly because it is immunosuppressive, increasing susceptibility to diseases. When BVD is eradicated, all aspects of cattle health are improved, including their welfare and the need to use antibiotics. Features of the disease mean while it can and should be controlled at farm level, national co-ordination is required for widespread eradication. This emphasises the need for partnership working, and while responsibility lies with cattle keepers, the Welsh Government is supporting industry to achieve eradication.

I want to highlight the outstanding work of the Gwaredu BVD project. This industry-led voluntary scheme was launched at the 2017 Royal Welsh Show, with £9 million of funding secured from the Welsh Government rural development programme. By testing young stock, the programme has identified the herds infected with BVD and supported those farmers to find and remove infected animals. I'm delighted to say that the five-year programme successfully screened over 9,163 herds, representing over 83 per cent of the cattle herds in Wales. The programme has also identified over 1,000 permanently infected animals over its course.