Biosecurity has a very important role to play on farms in general. Controlling disease is in every farmer’s own interest and in particular, controlling the spread of bTB in an area like mine. We are offered plenty of advice on how to keep badgers out of feed stores, animal housing, away from cattle drinking and feed troughs etc.
However, what do you do about a situation like this?
At first light this morning I looked out to see a dead badger in the garden behind the house. It was not there last night. It had clearly been dragged possibly by a big fox, for some distance looking at the tracks in the wet grass. There wasn’t much left of this nice fresh feast and the pictures do not shjow you the worst view! Suffice it to say I could not even tell the sex.
Our three farm cats, a magpie and goodness knows what else were all squabbling over the carcass when I looked out. Our sheep dog too would undoubtedly have had her pennyworth if we had not seen the corpse in time. The garden is adjacent to our access track to the farm. It is open to traffic but is not in a livestock area. We cannot gate it off in any way – it’s simply not practical and, there is a public footpath sharing part of the drive.
Of course, we don’t know that this poor youngling had bTB. But, if it had, there is now a distinct possibility my cats have picked it up. Cats are increasingly found to be positive for bTB when suspected and tested. Over the 4 years to 2011, an average of 23 domestic cats were positive according to DEFRA and this is of course from animals where suspicion was high because of association we presume. ie cats on positive cattle farms. There could well be many more with it who are never tested because no one suspects. Our neighbours have about 20 semi feral cats on their farm and they have bTB. Has anyone thought to test their pack of cats who wander freely over the surrounding farms?
What about MY cats who have now feasted on dead badger? What should I do – test them? When? How long does it take to know one way or another in a cat? What if they are positive? What are the implications for my other animals? Do cats spread the disease? What research is being done into this ?
And what about the corvids (magpies, crows etc) who are Nature’s dustbin men? They already have their own version of TB (avian TB) which is used very effectively in the bTB skin test as a control. Are they implicated?
So, my question to all those who say that biosecurity is the only answer and “bTB is all the farmer’s fault – any fool can avoid it if they try hard enough” – please explain how I can avoid what happened here last night.