THE controversial shooting of badgers to help eradicated bovine TB appears to have had a “beneficial impact” on the disease, environment minister Owen Paterson told farmers and landowners at the Royal Three Counties Show.

Two pilot culls, on the south Worcestershire/Gloucestershire border and in Somerset, were carried out and although they failed to hit the target figures, initial studies of the resulting data were “promising”.

“We are not yet in a position to release any statement,” Mr Paterson told the breakfast meeting of the Country Landowners and Business Association, “but the feeling is they have had a beneficial impact. I would just like to thank the experts who carried out the work in the face of some very provocative and mid-guided opposition.”

Mr Paterson, who said he is not “anti-badger” and has in fact had two pet badgers himself, said the rolling four year cull would continue as planned. “We have got to get a serious grip on this disease which threatens the whole future of our livestock industry,” he added. “One only has to look at the experience of countries like Australia and Ireland, which have had determined and co-ordinated efforts to tackle it to see that it can be done. In 1999 in Ireland they culled 44,906 diseased cattle, but through strict controls on cattle movement, taking out diseased badgers and culling reactor cattle, that was down to 15,612 last year.”

The Minister spent five hours touring the Malvern showground, meeting exhibitors, farmers and stallholders and as temperatures reach the high 20s Centigrade, car park staff had to break into two vehicles to rescue dogs suffering from the heat.

“We always tell people not to bring their dogs,” said show communications manager Sharon Gilbert. “They are not allowed on to the showground anyway and to leave them in cars in sunny weather is just irresponsible.”

Opening the three day event, show president Dame Janet Trotter said the show presented a great educational opportunity. ”Many of our visitors have little idea about farming or where our food really comes from and this is a great chance to promote the hard work of our farmers and producers,” she added.

The 2014 long service trophy went to 66-years-old John Clay, after 50 years working for Colbatch, Clark and Co at Canon Pyon in Herefordshire. Mr Clark, who lives on the far, said he began farm life “when hay and straw bales were pitchforked by hand and it was possible to drive herds of cattle across the A49, something you wouldn’t dare do today”.

Runners-up in the Royal Three Counties agricultural contractor of the year were contractors N and A Priday of Malvern. The competition was won by Gamber Logistics, a specialist agricultural cleaning firm from Ross on Wye