Vaccination of badgers

By Andrew Gray (local userpage) (p1140372) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Andrew Gray (local userpage) (p1140372) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
The good thing about this strange statement from the NFU is that they are wanting more vaccination of badgers.

One of the strange things is that they seem to think that it is the job of wildlife charities to provide it rather than their own industry or government. This represents, it appears, quite a lurch in policy from the NFU in terms of the package of measures that they support, but no change in the fact that they seem to think that the world has to pay for everything.

Also, the NFU still has a bizarre take on the science of tb control,  ‘By culling infected wildlife, Australia and New Zealand have slashed TB rates by far more than the supposed 16% decline predicted by the Krebs trial in the 1990s.’. Better to use an anecdote from the other side of the world, where the species involved are very different, than the results of a massive research study carried out on your own farms, it seems.

But breathtakingly there are, the President of the NFU is reported as claiming, ten times as many ground-nesting birds in the cull area in Gloucestershire.  Ten times as many? That takes some doing! The next time I drive over to Cheltenham racecourse I guess I’ll spot the badger cull areas by the cloud of birds in the sky above it.


16 Replies to “Vaccination of badgers”

  1. Positively breathtaking ! But also standard NFU – the best form of defence is attack. And it is very good news TB is coming down – but could it just be due more to the measures which many who actually had some idea what they were talking about, like movement control, and farmers hated because it imposed restrictions on them, might just be the real cause ? And could we not continue to reduce TB without harassing the poor old badgers ?

    If not, then of course the wildlife trusts must join in – but maybe they should, as some wag, pointed out the £5 k per dead badger would cover, fly them to LA business class & put them up at the Marmont Hotel for a night.

  2. Just managed to stop laughing and pick myself up off the floor…the badger is probably still laughing [and giggling about goalposts]. I think the Sundance Kid asked “who are these guys?”….

  3. p.s. as far as I am aware the people out there in the field at night vaccinating badgers are VOLUNTEERS. I don’t think the training courses are free, and I know initially the Badger Trust were helping cover the cost of training volunteers. If farmers can afford to pay shooters to shoot at badgers, they have a real nerve suggesting the wildlife organisations are not working with them…. if I were a vol vaccinator I know who would get the next needle!

  4. “Farmers have been working hard on the ground”….for years we have been moving infected livestock out of the infected zone and spreading them to the far corners of the country….. at our own expense. Can we have more subsidy please?

  5. The ground-nesting birds in our local area also had a much better breeding season in 2014 than in 2013 but we put it down to the weather…

  6. Oh how I wish people who know nothing about control of cattle movements would just buy a paddock and just 3 cattle and find out the truth about how difficult it has always been for at two decades to spread BTB by moving cattle.
    That of course ignores the fact that any farmer worth his salt would never do anything repeat anything to get this awful disease on his farm.
    Come on wise up guys.
    Rule one indeed law is no cattle can be moved unless tested for BTB in previous 60 days and test is clear.
    Unless someone can point out where this falls down then it is as foolproof as is practical.
    With cattle movements monitored it is relatively foolproof.
    Farmers know cattle movements are not the cause of the problem however much people would like to think they know everything about how farmers move cattle
    Whatever makes people think a cattle farmer would risk getting BTB in his herd when he can then not move any cattle for anything but slaughter until he gets three clear tests which could be years and would be almost catastrophic besides the fact of losing sentimental animals he may have had for generations.
    Problem really seems to be here some journalists who do not know what they are on about say cattle movements spreading BTB and general public reading this believe every word of it also of course Badger people would have everyone believe Badgers do not spread BTB.

    1. If only the bTB reactor tests were 100% accurate eh?
      Or even close to that figure.
      That might help.
      Sadly though that doesn’t seem to be the case..

  7. I know this is a very, very weak point but it is Bovine TB not Mustelid TB, there is a clue in the name…

  8. The NFU have got a cheek when they know full well that several of the Wildlife trusts across the country are offering vaccination, as are several badger groups and Badger Trust. Very few farmers will take it up. Why? Apparently because they don’t want volunteers or antis on their land finding out where setts are in case a cull comes. The NFU are to blame for a lot of misinformation. Yes pre movement testing is vital, but the test is just not good enough. Not only that, a cow may not be a reactor for some time after infection. It’s wise to post movement test any bought in cattle and it IS still possible to move cattle around between different holdings in different counties (with different levels of TB), without a test I believe. Difficult to keep up with all the regs though…

  9. Whatever bits and pieces are brought up in this debate two facts stick out as fact.All farmers try desperately hard to avoid herd getting BTB,just even one animal testing positive and setting off a series of testing every three months allowing only any animals moved off farm for slaughter sets up horrendous problems of somehow providing housing for perhaps a hundred calves each year and of course food,bedding etc.All animals that would have normally been sold.
    Farmers cannot help the fact if true that the test is not 100% accurate,they just wish it was 100% accurate but remember it worked very well all through decades in last century
    Jon,really a very weak point like chicken and egg,doesn’t really matter whether cattle gave it to Badgers and other wild animals or Badgers etc gave it to cattle we are where we are and it desperately needs sorting for cattle and wild animals sakes.
    Another fact that absolutely stands out however much people dispute it is that until culling limited amount of Badgers in late nineties was stopped this disease caused very little problems another disastrous decision by Government of day which is having serious consequences for farmers,cattle,Badgers and maybe other wildlife.
    It would be much more productive if rather than continually blaming farmers for this disease those on the Badgers are innocent side realised that some must surely have BTB and more important tell us all how they would deal with these because vaccination apparently does not help these.

    1. I don’t think its all down to the farmers.
      Forgetting the “fact” that “all” farmers try to avoid bTB like the plague (we’ll assume the incident in Cork when a farmer injected slurry into his own cattle to benefit from bTB compensation and pass that off as a one-off), no… I can absolutely see why virtually all farmers avoid bTB if they can.
      It must be horrendous for them if their cattle DO test positive.

      Govt. Policy is also to blame.
      No. Not because they stopped gassing badgers which some farmers think helped get bTB a little better controlled.
      Because policies like allowing farmers who are under movement restrictions after having reactors in their herd are allegedly allowed to carry on spreading slurry on their land from their movement- restricted cattle.
      DEFRA’s own advice on this matter is allegedly something along the lines of ‘consider the effect of this [on local wild potential carriers one could assume]’.
      Seems daft to me if this actually happens.
      Herd tests positive.
      Movement stopped.
      Potentially infected slurry spread.
      Local wildlife (deer, badgers etc) potentially infected.
      Movement restrictions lifted.
      Herd gets re-infected by the infected wildlife.
      Herd tests positive. Or potentially a neighbouring herd.
      Movement stopped.
      etc etc etc.
      I can’t believe this actually happens does it? Surely not. Dennis do you know if this happens or indeed has the potential to happen?

      As for the tests not being 100%. Yes thats unfortunately true Dennis.
      Estimates vary but 80% seems a good median.
      Do all farmers wish they were 100% accurate as you stated Dennis? I might suggest not as they try as hard as they can to avoid bTB don’t they?

      Then there are the ‘rogue’ (I hope) vets who don’t test thoroughly and some have been struck off I gear for this. Saying you’ve tested 250 cattle when you’ve only tested a fraction of that.
      We’ll give the herdsmen the benefit of the doubt in these cases shall we and hope that the prosecuted vets were running round the fields testing the cattle on their own, with no supervision?

      No. Not ALLl the fault of the farmers.
      My sympathies genuinely go out to dairy farmers normally. Screwed by the supermarkets. Screwed by the public who want their cheap milk. Screwed by the government in terms of policy.
      Badgers of course have their part to play in all this (spreading bTB).
      And now they’re getting screwed too.

      All very sad.

  10. Doug,a very commendable comment and feel sure you know I have tremendous sympathy with Badgers but feel we are in such a mess that some badger culling is inevitable to clear this disease from cattle and Badgers which must be done by a vaccine on Badgers bordering infected areas as long as the vaccine is useful in giving protection.
    Although it is not perfect we must in my opinion find some way that where a herd of cattle have reactors we either catch any Badgers that have a sett on that farm and test for TB or gas the sett but surely if we can spend billions of £s on sending troops abroad we could spend a small amount catching these Badgers.
    I agree that somewhere a farmer will let the side down by doing something illegal or something that is stupid and that is just how life is not just farmers but it is a insignificant problem and if the law deals harshly with these people then it will stop.
    One fact is you cannot avoid tests and cattle are tested through a crush and also number of animals can be checked by records,
    Some things I cannot answer as we never had a reactor in all the years we had a herd and we also had Badgers but I would think that reactors would be taken more or less immediately and when we had a doubtful test we immediately had to isolate that animal until passing another test in something like 60 days.
    Doubt there are any rogue vets they have too much to lose and everyone I ever met were very conscientious.
    Honestly never thought about slurry problem but mostly it is stored for a reasonable length of time,wonder how infective it is but of course the cattle are out in the fields in summer with Badgers constantly turning over dung pats looking for worms.
    About the only place I would disagree with you is that in the mid 90s with Badgers on infected farms culled then cattle slaughtered numbered something like 3,000 a year I believe and now I believe cattle slaughtering is over 30,000 a year even with much harder controls on cattle movement.That increase seems reasonable evidence that Badgers are probably to blame for the increase or at least that Government is to blame for changing a policy that was working.
    I actually think that this point about the test not being accurate is a bit of putting the blame on something that worked very well for years and in almost all cases it seems that when it does not work it falls down giving cattle a positive reaction when on slaughter it was negative so in those instances it is on the safety first side.
    I absolutely agree it is a sad thing for all concerned but the longer it goes on the worse it will be for all concerned,we have already had something like seventeen years of it getting worse and worse with very little sign of any solution being acted upon nationally.
    We even have some sad people saying that farmers are wrong to describe a herd as a closed herd when it is not kept in a shed and complete isolation.
    Well it has always been described as a closed herd and accepted as such if no stock are bought in and all animals thus are home reared.If as has happened on these farms some animals have been reactors then the obvious thought must be that wildlife has brought the infection.

    1. Thanks Dennis.

      Rogue farmers. You say it’s insignificant. I’ll have to take your word on that.

      Manner of testing. Yes… I’m aware how cattle are tested. Makes a mockery then of how the prosecuted (yes prosecuted) vets’ procedure then doesn’t it.

      Fraid there are rogue farmers and not just farmers… rogue vets it seems too.

      Difference between you and me is that I can’t call these incidents and their perpetrators insignificant.

      Where I suppose I differ from you most though is with your use of the phrase “reasonable evidence” and indeed its context.

      You state an opinion but not an evidence-based opinion, reasonable or otherwise.

  11. Doug,I have no problem with your opinion and of course my comment is only my opinion.
    In the concept of insignificant farmers and vets those small numbers not obeying the law would have very little affect on numbers of Badgers and cattle infected numbers.
    I assure you all the large animal(farm) vets I have ever been in contact with have been very conscientious insisting that every thing is done to the rules and law or they would take any required action(of course there are always the exception in any occupation you would like to mention).
    I was more concerned about the slurry aspect but guess that it is more the practical aspect of so many farms having probably 1,500 tons of slurry.What is practical except doing what most farmers do store for six months the spread on fields where silage came from which are not likely to be grazed for approximately two months.
    Interestingly farm vets who are not in the habit of saying what farmers want to hear in my opinion say Badgers are involved in the spread of the disease.These are the same vets who over many years supplied advice on tackling many diseases for our herd while we were farming.
    No evidence just fact,something like 3,000 cattle slaughtered a year with small amount of Badger culling where herds infected.
    Stronger cattle movement controls brought in 16 years later Badger population at least doubled and cattle slaughtering at least 10 times greater.
    Anyone with similar figures for anything else would come to the same conclusion that I have that Badgers spreading the disease and maybe have spread it with cattle of course into other wildlife which makes it all the worse that when we almost had this disease beat the Government stopped the small amount of Badger culling that was very effective and even Badgers are in a much worse place now.

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