DORSET could lose its dairy farming industry if steps are not taken to combat bovine TB, the head of the National Farmers Union has said.
Meurig Raymond, president of the NFU, was speaking on a visit to the Dorset farm owned by Paul Gould, the county chairman of the union.
It follows a devastating herd test revealing a quarter of Mr Gould’s in-calf animals will have to be slaughtered.
Mr Raymond said the NFU would double its efforts to lobby the government to roll out a badger cull in affected counties to tackle a ‘reservoir of disease’ in wildlife.
Mr Gould has farmed a closed herd for more than half a decade, meaning all of the cattle are born and bred on his North Dorset farm.
He believes the source of infection could therefore only come from wildlife.
Mr Raymond said government politics concerning the cull were causing ‘immense anger and frustration’ among farmers.
He added: “Farmers can’t understand how politics has taken over sensible decision making.
“I am calling on the government to have strength in their convictions and drive this policy forward to give farmers hope for the future.
“Other countries have eradicated the disease, and we need to look to them. We will keep fighting.”
The NFU is supportive of badger vaccination, Mr Raymond added, but believes this can only be effective in clean animals living in edge areas, unlike Dorset in which the disease is ‘endemic’.
He said: “We want healthy cattle and healthy wildlife. Consumers nowadays want to see cows out in pastures, but sadly that is where they are most vulnerable because they are coming into contact with diseased wildlife.”
More than 38,000 cattle were slaughtered last year in England and Wales after testing positive for bovine TB.
Mr Raymond said: “It is the emotions you go through in these circumstances, the loss of milk production, the years of breeding that you have put into it for this to happen. It is the absolute despair.
“My rallying call is for the government to get on with it. Otherwise we won’t have a livestock industry left in parts of this country.”