UK – Changing winter housing and increasing tuberculosis cattle testing frequency are more likely to control bovine tuberculosis in the UK than culling badgers, computer modelling suggests.
Queen Mary University of London researchers have shown regular and frequent cattle testing could lead to eventual TB control, whether alongside culling or without.
Badger culling, as piloted in the south west of England, is however one of four ways to potentially control TB, although is not believed to be successful when used in isolation, concluded the report.
Through state-of-the-art computer modelling, Dr Aristides Moustakas and Professor Matthew Evans analysed badger and cattle life-cycles, testing frequency, cattle movement, housing and infection rates between animals.
Professor Evans said: “Of the available Bovine Tuberculosis control strategies we believe that how frequently cattle are tested and whether or not farms utilise winter housing have the most significant effect on the number of infected cattle.”
“Our modelling provides compelling evidence, for those charged with controlling Bovine TB, that investment in increasing the frequency of cattle testing is a far more effective strategy than badger culling.”
However, he caveated that TB is a complex disease, making modelling difficult, adding that he was confident in the predictions nonetheless.
New insight has been provided by the study to the long running TB debate, which the Northern Ireland government opened to the public this week.
Agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill urged all parties to enter into an information and evidence gathering phase to develop a long-term strategy for eradicating TB in cattle in the north.
The initiative is part of the TB Strategic Partnership Group, currently considering ways to improve detection of TB in cattle, enhance biosecurity measures, reduce disease risks, compensate for losses and cost-effectively deal with wildlife.
English farmers in Gloucestershire and Somerset culling areas will soon get veterinary advice tailored to their specific farm on TB reduction risk, Defra announced on Wednesday.
Provided by the Animal and Plant Health Agency over the next two years, farmers will be helped to strengthen TB prevention measures.
Farming minister George Eustice said: “This new service is part of our comprehensive strategy to beat bovine TB and will provide farmers with expert advice on how they can reduce the risk of the disease affecting their farm.”
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