The Devon Badger Group has long recognised the need to be able to offer support and help to farmers struggling with the risk of a TB outbreak affecting their herds.
We are therefore aiming to train a lay badger vaccinator so we can support badger vaccination as an alternative to badger culling. There are many reasons why badger vaccination should be considered a viable option, such as it is much more readily accepted by the public, is significantly cheaper than culling badgers, does not disrupt stable, social badger groups therefore causing little or no dispersal.
We know that the main cause of TB in cattle is transmission between infected cattle which are not picked up by the inaccurate skin test and that as such, badgers play only a small part in that cycle of disease spread. However, research has shown that vaccinating badgers results in:
· 74% less badgers testing positive for Bovine TB;
· Cubs born into vaccinated groups have 80% less chance of getting Bovine TB;
· Reduced progression, severity and excretion of Bovine TB in already infected badgers ;
· Reduced potential disease spread to cattle on farms where badgers are vaccinated
Farmers are then able to concentrate on the real measures that will help to protect their herds including use of a more accurate TB test, risk based cattle trading and improved farm bio security.
The badger vaccination course is run by the Animal and Plant Health Agency and consists of 3 training modules. Two of the training modules have kindly been offered by Somerset Badger Group Badger Vaccination Team and covers sett surveying and deployment of traps, the third must be done at an accredited training facility and by approved trainers. The costs for this third element is £1,300 and, as such, is way out of our reach of our small group, we are therefore, hoping to raise funds to cover this cost through crowd funding.
Since the culls began in Devon in 2016, we have had the largest area culled in the country (4,571km2 – 68%) and have lost 17,500 badgers. We now face the possibility that the remaining unculled areas of Devon will be applying for and be granted licences to cull this year.