Tb Testing and Badger Vaccination

Barefoot vets is a 2 vet practice based in the welsh borders. Born and bred in the farming community we are 6th generation beef and sheep farmers ourselves.

For the past 7 years we have been heavily involved with Tb testing here and in Herefordshire. Frustrated at the lack of progress against this disease and the endless testing stimulated us to explore other options.

Badger Vaccination

We believe that culling does not offer a long term solution, especially in ” clean areas” as nature will always fill a vacuum; i.e. other badgers will move into an area with available food, possibly (probably) bringing disease with them.

We strongly believe that good bio-security and a healthy badger population are the best ways of protecting your animals.

We have worked as large animal vets in the UK and with wildlife both here and abroad (we have published in peer reviewed journals on both of these) so understand this issue from both a farming and conservation perspective.

Badger vaccination combined with TB testing of your cattle*, with optional  bespoke bio security programmes tailored to your land and buildings. We aim to empower farmers and landowners to take the initiative and tackle Bovine Tb on there own land (*We have 2 OV’s (official veterinarians) who are able to carry out your Tb test on behalf of the APLA (formally AHVLA)).

Badger vaccination for wildlife trusts and private reserves who wish to protect their badgers and their neighbours stock.

We aim to empower farmers and landowners to take the initiative and tackle Bovine Tb on there own land.
If you have come as far as this page you will know all about Tb, and the extra work, expense and frustration it causes our farmers. Frankly its a catastrophe.

In Europe, Great Britain has by far the highest incidence of Bovine Tb. and this is increasing year on year

Bovine Tb costs the tax payer around 100 million pounds per year

2013 was the worst year since records began for the number of TB restricted herds in England.

It has now been reliably demonstrated that the persistence of an infected wildlife reservoir (the badger) that enters into contact with cattle is a major obstacle to the eradication of Tb.

Tb is a very serious disease; Between 1912 and 1937 some 65,000 people died of tuberculosis contracted from consuming milk in England and Wales alone.

So this is an issue we do need to address, but current policies do not seem to be working.
We need to address the disease in our wildlife, specifically in our badgers.

Why not cull?
We believe that culling does not offer a long term solution, especially in ” clean areas” as nature will always fill a vacuum; i.e. other badgers will move into an area with available food, possibly (probably) bringing disease with them. So culling will make the problem worse in the long term unless the political will is there to continue culling year after year.

All the publicity around the cull and the cost of the cull alienates the British farming industry from its customers

Why Vaccinate?
A healthy badger population vastly decreases perturbation of other badgers preventing infected animals entering land grazed by your cattle.

Research has demonstrated that vaccination reduces the severity and progression of TB in badgers that were experimentally infected with bovine TB after vaccination. BCG vaccination also reduced the amount of bacteria excreted in urine, faeces and other clinical samples. Such effects in the field are likely to translate into a reduced risk of transmission to cattle.
A reduction in the prevalence and severity of disease in the badger population will reduce the potential for transmission of TB from badgers to cattle.

Vaccination itself does not result in perturbation. It keeps the badger population stable and will not lead to an increase in bovine TB.
Research published in December 2012 showed that vaccination not only significantly reduced the direct risk of an individual badger developing TB, but that it also provided some immunity indirectly to unvaccinated badger cubs hidden away underground.

What if you miss one badger?
It’s not about vaccinating every badger with a 100% efficacious vaccine; it’s about reaching a ‘critical mass’ of vaccinated animals at which point the infection can no longer continue to persist in the population because of insufficient susceptible individuals. This is known as herd immunity and works on the principle that if some of the population are protected from the disease it is less likely that an infected individual will come into contact with a susceptible individual, therefore, the disease is less likely to be passed on. Obviously, the higher the proportion of protected individuals there are in a population, the lower the number of animals that could become infected. Vaccinating badgers gives protection to around 74% of the population.  In humans herd immunity  for Tb is achieved with around 55% of the population protected.
Vaccinating Badgers (as with humans) confers lifelong immunity so we only need to trap and vaccinate the next generation of badgers each year.
What vaccine is used?
The only vaccine available for use against TB in badgers (and humans), is Bacille Calmette– Guérin (BCG). There is no difference between human BCG and Badger BCG, (the licensed vaccine for badgers),  although the badgers are given a higher dose.
Is the vaccine safe for use in badgers?
Yes. Scientific research has been carried out which demonstrated that BCG was safe for use in badgers. This was necessary in order for the vaccine to be licensed for use by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.
How will badgers be vaccinated?
Currently, the only available vaccine is an injectable one. Badgers are trapped in cages, injected with vaccine then released.
Are there any welfare issues with trapping badgers for vaccination?
Cage trapping of badgers has been undertaken for over 30 years. Research has shown that, when trapping is carried out by properly trained and experienced personnel, the number of badgers injured in cage traps is very low, with the majority of those injured only suffering minor abrasions.
How much does it cost?
Farmers frequently say to us in our every day vet work “vaccinate the badgers! they’re all bonkers! think of the cost.”
we yes, they are all bonkers, but we think vaccinating badgers is a very logical step. as to the cost its +/- about £18 per acre (on a whole farm basis) and a 50% grant is available in many areas.

Protect the badger from random killing.