TB jab trial is costing £5,172 per badger

Officials in Northern Ireland have ruled out extending a selective badger culling trial due to “high costs and operational logistics”.

The five-year, £7.5m trial traps badgers and then either culls or vaccinates the animals according to their TB status.

But only 580 individual badgers have been handled in the first two years of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (Dard) trial. That puts the cost of handling each badger at £5,172.

See also: Q&A: Selective badger cull in Northern Ireland

A Dard spokesman told Farmers Weekly: “The Trap, Vaccinate, Release [TVR] research project could not realistically be rolled out [across the province] due to cost and operational logistics.”

TVR trial costs

  • Overall cost of scheme: £7.5m
  • Annual cost: £1.5m
  • Total number of badgers trapped: 580
  • Cost per badger trapped: £5,172.41

Earlier figures from the trial showed some badgers returned more than once to the traps, wasting time and effort.

In the first year only 280 animals were treated, but between them they accounted for 600 trappings.

However, Dard said the number of badgers likely to be trapped was an unknown at the start of project and, therefore, no target was established at the outset.

“We are content with numbers caught within the area so far,” the spokesman said.

Dard officials said it was too early to say what level of TB had been found in badgers and what effect the trial would have on combating the disease.

But the spokesman insisted the research was proving successful and a wider roll-out had not been the aim.

“We have almost completed the second year of the fieldwork and we have a significant number of badgers in the area. This has involved the successful planning, procurement and the implementation of the fieldwork, among other things.

“Furthermore, the ability to maintain the support of farmer, veterinary and environmental representative groups has also been an important aspect of the TVR project,” he said.

Dard said the project was helping to improve the knowledge of how TB spread and what could be done to prevent its transmission between wildlife and cattle.

A statement released by the department said year two of the project was focusing on removing infected badgers and vaccinating any that tested as TB negative.

This should lead in time to a healthier badger population, with a reduced capacity to transmit TB to other badgers and to cattle in the TVR area, it said.

A final concluding report will not be available until completion of the fieldwork in late 2018. Completion of the final report is anticipated for late 2019.