O’Neill Visits Bovine TB Badger TVR Research Project Near Banbridge

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Research into badgers is vital to add to our understanding of TB disease, badger ecology and their interaction with cattle, Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.

During a visit to the Test and Vaccinate or Remove (TVR) Wildlife Intervention Research Project currently taking place in the Banbridge area in Co Down, Minister O’Neill met with some of the staff who are implementing the study on the ground.

[caption id="attachment_42630" align="alignleft" width="370"]Badgers are being surveyed in the Banbridge and Castlewellan area in the fight against Bovine TB. Badgers are being surveyed in the Banbridge and Castlewellan area in the fight against Bovine TB.[/caption]

Minister O’Neill said: “Bovine TB is a major animal health problem in these islands. It is costly for the taxpayer and for farmers and places added pressure on the families of those farms affected. Its eradication is therefore a key priority.

“The TVR Wildlife Intervention Research Project is a unique piece of research throughout these islands and is vital to our understanding of the disease in badgers and their interaction with cattle.

“Today I have witnessed the professionalism of DARD staff in delivering this research project on the ground. This year all captured badgers will be identified, assessed, sampled and vaccinated. Next year all captured badgers that are TB test negative will be vaccinated and released, while those testing positive will be removed. In addition, up to 40 badgers will have GPS collars fitted so that their movement can be recorded and analysed.”

Highlighting the importance of a joined-up approach to tackle TB, Minister O’Neill acknowledged the role of farmers and industry in supporting the TVR research project.

She said: “Eradicating TB in cattle requires a joined-up approach between Government, industry and farmers. I am encouraged with the high level of co-operation from farmers and land owners in the Banbridge area in agreeing to be part of the TVR research project.

“With the continued support of local land owners, farming representatives and environmental groups I am optimistic that the number of permissions will exceed that achieved during last years’ Badger Sett Survey.

“This continued co-operation will help us add to the pool of international knowledge and assist in designing the longer term path to eradication. I know that the results of the TVR research project will be of interest to those in the south of Ireland, in Britain and further afield who similarly grapple with the difficulties inherent in bovine TB eradication.”

Over the next five years cattle TB incidence will be monitored in the Banbridge area and in several similarly sized non-TVR areas. Information will then be compared between the TVR and non-TVR areas two areas to identify any change in TB incidence in cattle.

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The first year of the TVR Research Project is to establish the initial level of TB in badgers and, by the vaccination of badgers, reduce the risk of TB infection should perturbation occur following the removal of TB infected badgers from 2015. Up to 40 GPS collars will be fitted on badgers to monitor any potential territorial movement changes during the TVR project.

Fieldwork on TVR commenced on 27 May 2014. TVR is a five year wildlife intervention research approach and during this period considerable data will be accumulated. A final report will not be completed until after the data has been analysed, interpreted and understood. It is anticipated that a final report could be available by late 2019. Some information may become available as the TVR research project progresses but this is likely to be quite limited, so as to prevent premature conclusions being drawn before completion of the project and the subsequent analysis of data.

The numbers of reactor cattle removed from farms over the past three calendar years were:-

2011 – 8,136 reactors – £10.6million compensation paid; 2012 – 10,897 reactors – £14.6million compensation paid; and 2013 – 8,392 reactors – £11.5million compensation paid.

The Badger Sett Survey work was carried out in 2013/14 in two 100km2 areas in Co. Down with land access permissions accounting for 81.6% of eligible land in the Banbridge area and 83.7% of eligible land in the Castlewellan area.

For more information on the TVR study please visit: Badger Study

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