Thursday, July 01, 2004

Fence 'em out - fence 'em in? Bio security in practise.

Defra advise farmers it is their responsibility to keep cattle and badgers apart and any disease compensation may depend on it. But how practical is it and what are the consequences for badgers if it were possible?

Most farm buildings will allow badgers access. They can squeeze under sheeted gates only 4 inches off the ground. Any lower and the gate would foul a concrete slope, or manure and be useless. Their entry to 'secure' feed passages has been filmed, the badgers coming in through cattle yards and cubicles. And the height of cattle feeding troughs - recommended by Defra as 80 cm - is no barrier as they have been filmed at up to 125cm. That's 4 feet 3 inches in old money - and too high for cattle to use. On wood or rough stone they can climb to 16 feet.

Defra tell us that trough design is 'under reveiew', and that farmers should consider suspending them. Defra or the trough? And from what? In a building suspended troughs would be a health and safety hazard to both cattle and handlers, and outside? Skyhooks!

Farmers have found making a cattle building impenetrable to a determined ( and hungry ) badger, impossible. When all entrances were blocked on 2 farms, badgers tunnelled 3 feet under the foundations of a solid concrete wall and came up through the chalk floor - inside.

On Ben Bradshaw's desk top toy-town farm, it may be possible to 'fence 'em out', but practically, on an average cattle holding of hundreds of acres this would involve a Colditz type fence dug several feet underground. And that would drastically reduce the area available to badgers to feed. No earthworms, dung pats, short grass or birthing debris (placentas). Taken literally, cattle farmers are being asked to starve out their resident population of badgers.


Anonymous said...

You should apply for compensation costs like objective 1 reagons; there are EAGGF structural funds from DG AGRI and precautionary measures payed by DG SANCO in the case of epizootic diseases. Badgers should not be only your problems but also European problems.

Matthew said...

Thanks for that, we'll ask Ben if he's applied.
Defra applied for EU funding in 1995, but were told "It's not a European problem". We suspect that their request was budgetry, rather than specific bio security.
However if it has to be in any way match funded - forget it. Maggie handbagged that at Fontainbleau: the matched funding for agriculture is deducted from her politically sacrosanct 'budget rebate', leaving UK taxpayers to fund 80 percent.
Maybe funding could be targetted at dedicated isolation facilities to post movement test incoming cattle?
See our Saltdean post for just how successful 'experts' were at fencing out badgers from gardens!