Farmers in Oxfordshire have welcomed the prospect of a mass badger cull to control deadly tuberculosis in cattle.

Cases of the disease doubled in Oxfordshire between 2003 and 2006, with a number of herds contracting tuberculosis on the west Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire border.

A report by the Government's chief scientific officer, Sir David King, backed the killing of badgers in areas where the disease is rife in cattle.

He said badgers were clearly a source of infection and numbers needed to be reduced to stop the disease spreading.

Miles Saunders, of Step Farm, near Faringdon, welcomed the report - he had to slaughter more than 100 animals when his farm tested positive for the disease last December.

He said: "The total number of badgers needs to drop, because there are too many about and they have no natural predators.

"But it's important to keep the healthy badgers alive, because they stop infected badgers moving into setts.

"Tuberculosis has cost me a lot of money, particularly in milk sales. And I have had to buy another herd, which is not as good.

"The compensation does not cover the full value of the animal.

"It's been absolutely frightening and we have been exceedingly worried over the past few months. Neighbouring farmers are also worried."

The report's publication was welcomed by the National Farmers' Union, which is now calling for the Government to take action in the light of the report.

But the Berkshire, Buckingham and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust said it opposed badger culling and it questioned the advice given in the report.

Spokesman Matthew Jackson said: "The advice in the report is very worrying.

"Although he is not recommending badgers are culled in Oxfordshire, his advice, which has been drawn up behind closed doors, goes directly against that of the Independent Science Group.

"Their work has been published in respected journals, and has been subject to review by other scientists."

Neil Rowe manages Manor Farm in Marcham and has an organic herd of 300 cattle.

About 10 per cent of his herd were slaughtered because of the disease in 2003.

He said he welcomed the prospect of a cull reluctantly: "Any cull needs to be carried out very carefully.

"The testing procedure in cattle needs to be improved, because it's inadequate and a lot of the infection seems to be passed from cow to cow anyway - it's very easy to blame the badgers.

"We have a badgers' sett where our cows are and it's the best thing we can have at the moment, because we know they are clean and our herd is safe.

"Badgers are very territorial and if someone got rid of them, others would come to the sett which might not be clean, and this would put our herd at risk."

John Hook, who keeps 250 dairy cows at his farm in Cote, near Witney, said he was very concerned about the disease spreading.

He said: "We do not buy cattle any more, only breed our own to try to reduce the risk of our cows becoming infected."

In 2006, 20 cattle were slaughtered in Oxfordshire under the tuberculosis control measures, compared with 11 in 2003 and 52 in 2002.