FARMERS in the Ledbury area have given a mixed response to calls from a Government scientist to launch extensive culling of badgers to prevent the spread of bovine TB.

The Government's chief scientific advisor, Sir David King has recommended that badgers should be killed in areas where there was "a high and persistent" incidence of the disease in cattle.

Farmer Bruce Gilbert, of Lower House Farm, Canon Frome, who has lost a dozen of his beef cattle in the last 12 months to TB, said that incidences of the disease had been "up and down like the proverbial yoyo".

But he added: "I am against the willy-nilly culling of badgers. It has to be done in a controlled manner. Wholesale slaughters do not solve anything."

He warned that infected badgers could move into areas where "clean" badgers had been culled, and that this could actually help to spread TB.

He added: "If a set is clean, badgers will keep it clean."

Bosbury diary farmer, John Barron, said he had two "inconclusive" tests recently on catlle, with further tests to come in 60 days time.

His herd had been free from TB for many years during which time Bosbury had been a cull area for badgers under the scientific "Kreb's Report" studies.

That culling has now stopped.

Mr Barron said he had earlier observed clear links between the presence of badgers on his farm and bovine TB.

He said: "When I came here, in 1997, there had just been a cull and the farm was free from TB. The following winter the badgers were back and we lost 13 cattle.

"Unfortunately, I cannot see any alternative to culling in localised areas. In the short term, it is effective and necessary.

"But there needs to be long-term research, to find some other means."

Government statistics show that from 2002 to the late winter of 2006, a total of 873 badgers were culled in the Bosbury area, during a period when not one of Mr Barron's cattle was diagnosed with bovine TB or had an "inconclusive" test.

But a joint statement from the national Badger Trust and the Herefordshire Badger Group says that statistics from the Irish Republic paint a different picture.

The statement expresses "shock" that Professor King's review "was conducted in secret and involved advice from the Republic of Ireland where 30 years of badger culling have left Eire with twice the level of bovine TB in the national herd, compared to that found in Great Britain".