Having colleagues in the area, we have been alerted several times to the increase in badger numbers in Cumbria. Road kill are increasing, and some have been found dead in fields. But the news last week that a dairy farm near Penrith had been hit, and hit hard with TB is an unwelcome wakeup call.
According to Defra and VLA staff, Cumbria does have its own unique spoligotype when the primary strains of TB are taken down to VNTR (Variable Number Tandem Repeat) detail. And not all the much publicised FMD restock reactors were SW consignees. Some were home grown.
As AHVLA officials continue to investigate the outbreak in this herd, said to be 'closed' and subject to a clear test 18 months ago, one wonders if they will look at other contact possibilities ? For instance untested, unregulated and unidentified alpacas.
Although the Welsh Assembly Government have indicated an intention to include camelids in their TB eradication scheme, England have made no such announcement. And AHVLA still have no right of entry to alpaca premises.
We are not saying that camelids are responsible for this outbreak, it is far too early to make any assumptions, but they should be considered, along with a wildlife interface, if a cattle index case can be ruled out. TB doesn't fly in with the tooth fairy, and 'something' heavily infected with this bacteria has had contact with these Cumbrian cattle. And if none of the 64 reactors have open lung lesions, then that 'something' may be still around, continually infecting the herd.
Farmers Guardian are reporting more cattle face slaughter in this outbreak.
And although Cumbrian farmers are heading for panic mode, and insisting the county is 'TB free' and that 'that there had never been TB in Cumbria, and where had it come from?', history has documented and published Cumbrian TB outbreaks, with badger involvement.
The Dunnett Report mentions two badgers with confirmed m. bovis and six cattle breakdowns with badger or 'unknown' (but not cattle) origins prior to 1984. So TB is a published and known problem for the county ...