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“I think it’s important to realise that you don’t have to make expensive or drastic changes to necessarily make a difference and even things like making sure feed stores are locked up and ensuring mineral licks and feeding troughs are off the ground can help reduce the chances of an outbreak.”
The herd graze from raised troughs to help reduce contact with badgers
Cattle feed is stored in a secure silo to prevent access from badgers
Lodge farm in Leicestershire has been farmed for three generations since 1933 and has a herd of 280 cattle, consisting of 100 dairy cows, 30 heifers, 50 fatteners and around 100 young stock. Located in the edge area, the non-intensive farm is around 580 acres and includes arable ground, used to grow wheat and barley. The majority of this is used for feed and where he can, the farmer tries to sell the surplus.
Historically a closed herd has always been preferred but due to being low on cow numbers a small neighbouring finishing herd was bought in 2013, as well as 10 Dutch-imported milking heifers. The cattle that were bought in were all tested, and it was found that although not reacting, the imported Dutch cows were far less tolerant on subsequent TB tests.
In terms of nose to nose contact, Lodge farm is not surrounded by any other large farms. This coupled with the dairy cattle being housed from around October to April, means that the chance of contact with other cattle is relatively small. Nevertheless there is woodland directly adjacent to the farm which is currently inhabited by badgers. Originally this area used to be permanent meadows and woodland with badger sets, however the setts were over 1,000 metres away from the farm. In 2013 several housing estates were built within close proximity to the farm and both the increased investment in housing and human activity may have been a possible reason for the badgers being displaced closer to the farm.
The woodland behind the farm is inhabited by badgers, which were displaced after the housing estates were built
The badger sets lie in woodland directly behind the farm
Currently TB free, the farm experienced its first outbreak in 2008 which although incredibly stressful at the time, was dealt with relatively quickly. Subsequently Lodge farm remained TB free for 7 years until a TB test in December 2015 revealed one reactor and three inconclusive results. As a result the farm was put under restrictions and had its last 60 day test in October 2016, since which there have been no further reactors.
Knowing that badgers could easy come into contact with the cattle at Lodge Farm and having experienced the consequences of a breakdown before; the farmer felt that there were several things he could do to help reduce the contact between his herd and the badgers. From using electrical fencing as a way to reduce contact between badger and cattle to attaching stiff rubber belting to the bottom of cattle shed gates, even the smallest of changes can help reduce contact between badgers and cattle and therefore reduce the chances of an outbreak.
Cattle shed gate with rubber seals after introducing biosecurity measures in 2008