Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Luck of the Irish...

...cows that is. Irish cattle have some protection from tb infected wildlife, but on their horizons may be a little bit more.

While the Republic of Ireland was carrying out their very successful and well reported 4 County badger culling trial, they continued with a more targeted form of Reactive culling, possibly in such a manner suggested by Prof. Godfray (see posts below).

When a farm goes under tb restriction in the R of I, it is our understanding that depending on how many reactors are involved, badger culling is initiated anyway. Criteria for inclusion in the 4 county trial was '1 confirmed reactor cow' . This compared with the Reference area where outbreaks described as having '4 or more reactors disclosed at standard interpretation of the intradermal skin test', qualified for badger removals.

But in the rest of the Republic, provided cattle transmission can be excluded, badger removals are initiated anyway, if 2 or more cattle reactors are found at standard interpretation.

Building on their success in Monaghan, Kilkenny, Cork and Donegal, we hear that officials in the Republic are now considering 'population management' in an effort to damp down Tb in the country's badgers.

We drew your attention to the exponential growth in the UK badger population most recently in our post:
"Total Protection - Sense or Sentimentalism" (19/2/2005) with extracts from Dr. Willie Stanton's research into badger numbers, which he found had increased over 40 years from what the late Ernest Neal described as 'abundant' (1 per sq. km. in the late 50's) to 37 per sq. km in 1999. We cannot guess how Ernest Neal would have described that number - 'teeming' , 'overcrowded', 'excessive' or 'saturated' perhaps? But we understand that the Republic are considering a 'population management' excercise in an attempt to reduce the reservoir of Tb in their badgers both to prevent its overspill into cattle and other species, and for the health and welfare of the badgers themselves.

Under the terms of the Berne convention this reduction can be up to 20 percent, and here the Irish have a distinct advantage over the 'devolved' UK. Mountain, moorland, lakes and forests will account for a small percentage of badgers in a much larger area of available land, while clearances on land where cattle are farmed will be a great deal higher - but still total less than 20 percent overall.

For the sake of English cattle, may we reclaim Snowdonia and the Cairngorms?


cornwallbadgers said...

Why don't you mention that the Irish study concluded that "Badger extermination is not a viable way to control bovine tuberculosis in cattle" ?

Gets the facts and have a sensible discussion by joining the peninsulabadgers egroup at:

Matthew said...

Because it did not say that.

It said (p.28 4.)" Although feasible, we acknowledge that widespread badger removal is not a viable strategy for the long-term control of tuberculosis in the Irish cattle population. Therefore, an alternative strategy for reducing badger-to-cattle transmission of M.bovis in Ireland - namely, the development of an effective vaccine for badgers, is currently being investigated".

(Together one assumes, with an attempt at population control.)

The conclusion of the paper (p28. 5) was:
"In conclusion, this study was conducted in four counties of Ireland, where incidence of tuberculosis in cattle herds at study start was higher than the national average. The counties are representative of many of the farming environments in Ireland. During the 5 year period of badger removal, the odds and hazard ratios of a confirmed restriction in the removal areas were significantly lower than in matched reference areas. We believe it is reasonable to attribute this effect specifically to proactive badger removal".