The Welsh Government, which has been very proactive in dealing the challenge of Bovine TB, is currently finalising its review of the science and preparing to report early next year. The recommendations are likely to comprise of a suite of coordinated of measures that together will slow the spread of the disease.
The vaccination of badgers is an approach that has been looked at in England more than Wales. It works by reducing the levels, and slowing the spread, of the disease in social groups of badgers to effect a corresponding drop in the rate of transmission to cattle. DEFRA funded a project to test the efficacy of the approach and, although budget cuts meant that the number of trial sites was drastically reduced, the data that are available suggest that the immunity in treated badger herds has vastly improved over 5 years.
In 2010, a bTB vaccine for badgers was approved and given marketing authorisation. Andrew Crace –Calvert set up a company called EcoCon to offer commercial deployment of a badger vaccination programme. Like all bTB control measures, it will be most successful in combination other bio-security and husbandry methods such as pre-movement cattle testing and measures to keep badgers and cattle apart. It is also more likely to succeed if farmers work together, particularly within boundaries both natural and man made such as major roads or conurbations. This has the benefit of increasing effectiveness by reducing immigration of unvaccinated badgers and helps to reduce the cost to farmers.
The Soil Association is working with EcoCon to see how badger vaccination could fit into a wider bTB control strategy. A meeting is being held at Gelli Aur on Friday 20th January (see our events page for details). Dr Iain Trewby will speak about the processes of badger vaccination and give an overview of the badger deployment project of which he is project manager, and Andrew Crace-Calvert will explain the commercial deployment of a badger vaccination programme.
Kate Still, the Soil Association's Animal Welfare Advisor, said, 'Regardless of the Government announcement we feel it is essential farmers look at all available options to reduce the risks of bTB on their farms. We hope this meeting will ensure farmers can make informed decisions on the right approach for them.'