A ‘DEVASTATED’ farmer is facing the prospect of losing almost a quarter of his heard to bovine TB.

Paul Gould, Dorset chairman of the National Farmers' Union, says it will take him up to four years to get over the loss.

Up to a quarter of Mr Gould’s closed dairy herd is set to be slaughtered after the animals reacted positively in the latest routine bovine TB test.

He said: “I’ve had 36 reactors, including 31 of my in-calf heifer replacements which were due to calve in this year. Let’s be clear about this, this means that pregnant cows will be sent for slaughter.

“Our last TB test was last June and we were completely clear.

“We’re a small family farm with 160 British Friesian cows.

“We’ve been a closed herd for 60 years, which means that all the cattle were born and bred on the farm and I don’t want to compromise that by bringing any animals in.”

The farmer said he believes his herd has been infected by badgers and is calling for a badger cull in Dorset.

As reported in the Echo, the controversial method for eradicating TB in livestock will not be extended to the county until at least 2015 or beyond.

Culls will continue where pilot culls were carried out in Gloucestershire and Somerset last year.

Mr Gould, from North Dorset, said: “We have badger setts on the farm and as far as I’m concerned there’s only one source of infection that this could have come from.

“Losing all these cows in one go is going to have a serious impact on the business.

“It means we’ll have no replacements at all this year and we’ll lose nearly a quarter of the herd.

“It’s devastating and we don’t know what our next TB test in 60 days will bring.”

Mr Gould will be visited by national NFU president Meurig Raymond.

Meurig Raymond said: “The terrible situation Paul finds himself in reinforces the need for action to be taken on all fronts to tackle bovine TB. He has done everything he possibly can to stop this disease infecting his herd and yet is still facing losing nearly a quarter of his cows because of the infected badgers living in or around the farm.

“While we’re confident that the pilot culls will deliver a reduction in bovine TB in Somerset and Gloucestershire, farmers in other parts of the country where the disease is rife like Dorset face the despair of continually fighting a losing battle to control it without any means of preventing badgers continually re-infecting their cattle.

“There is little point in increasing regulations on farmers when the disease isn’t being tackled in wildlife. Until we do that re-infection will continue to occur and farmers like Paul will be powerless to protect their businesses.

Controlling the spread of the disease is absolutely essential and culling badgers where bovine TB is endemic must play a role in any strategy to deal it.

“The government’s TB eradication strategy highlights the need to control the badger population in areas where TB is rife.

“The NFU will now be looking at the best ways of rolling out this policy to other areas where farms and farmers are having to deal with the scourge of TB on their farms.”