4 June 1999

Taking precautions to avoid infection

FARMING with badgers may be possible, says Chris Cheeseman, head of the Central Science Laboratorys wildlife diseases unit.

"In studies at CSLs Woodchester Park we have found TB in badger populations as high as 30%, but had no TB problems in cattle."

It appears there needs to be certain set of circumstances for TB transmission to cattle.

A badger with infected kidneys is a potent source of TB. Its urine and faeces are infected with mycobacterium bovis, which is the bovine strain of TB. In the right conditions, this bacteria can live for 11 months, he says. But when the bacteria is exposed to sunlight it is killed quickly.

Where there is a source of TB infection in badgers, it is possible to reduce the risk of transfer to cattle by following some basic guidelines.

"Cattle will normally avoid grazing where badgers have urinated, but if grazing pressure is high the grass will be shorter which means its the sort of pasture badgers prefer. This increases risks of cattle grazing infected pasture. So it is probably best to rotate grazing and try not to graze grass below 10cm.

"Strip and back grazing will help, as will fencing off latrines and sets. Try to keep mineral licks off the pasture where badgers are. If the cattle need minerals then hang licks off the ground and try to keep water and feed troughs 60cm above the ground."

Fencing off set areas will avoid stock breaking legs and damage to machinery, he advises. Also, try not to plant forage maize near sets because they roll it flat.

But the biggest risk of transferring TB is in buildings. "An infected badger which is poorly will seek an easy feed source and may try to get into buildings. The bacteria can survive in buildings where it is dark and warm for longer than outside."

"It is important to keep them out of buildings and off animal feed. So if doors cannot be shut, then putting an electric fence around the area may be a good idea." &#42


&#8226 Fence off sets.

&#8226 Dont graze too tight.

&#8226 Keep them out of buildings.