By Debbie James

A couple whose pedigree dairy herd is being decimated by bovine TB says the new cap on compensation for animals slaughtered because of the disease is a financial disaster for their business.

Tegwyn and Mary Davies experienced their first TB breakdown in 2002 and since then TB has claimed 1,750 pedigree animals on their 243-hectare dairy farm in Carmarthenshire – 250 in 2017 alone.

The losses are a major blow to milk income – in January the all-year round calving herd was producing 18,000 litres, today there is 9,600 litres in the tank.

In 2010 the business invested £1.5 million to upgrade the milking facilities, installing a 60-point rotary. With diminished cow numbers, that parlour is making short work of milking time.

A major blow to the business has been the Welsh Government’s decision to cap compensation payments at £5,000.

Tegwyn says that in every 50 cows lost from the herd, 5 per cent are worth over £10,000.

“Before October 1 we would receive their true value in compensation which made the losses a little easier to bear. Putting a cap on their value is a financial disaster for us.

“Why cap high value animals when the full value of lower value animals is paid?’’

There is a high level of TB infection in their youngstock, which graze offlying land.

“On that particular site we know there are a high number of badger setts. Whether they are infected I don’t know but it could be relevant,’’ says Mary.

She says all the biosecurity measures advised by the Welsh Government have been implemented, apart from erecting an electric fence around the farm.

“Nothing would stop a badger walking up the drive, definitely not an electric fence, not that we have ever seen a badger in the yard.’’

The future of the herd is looking very bleak, and so is the business.

“TB won’t just force us out of milk, it will force us out of business,’’ concedes Tegwyn.

The Welsh Government said a reason why the compensation cap had been created was to make the valuation system more financially sustainable.

It suggests that owners of high value animals could insure animals worth over £5,000 to recoup those additional losses.