bTB is a challenging disease to eradicate for a number of reasons: it is difficult to detect as the available diagnostic tests are imperfect; it can survive in the environment for several months; and it is harboured in wildlife, with badgers being a known vector. Typically, infection is spread between, or within, cattle herds through cattle movements or through direct or indirect contact with infected cattle in other herds or with infected wildlife.
BTB Eradication Strategy for Northern Ireland
A new bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) Eradication Strategy for Northern Ireland was announced in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 24 March 2022.
The bTB Eradication Strategy is a balanced, holistic, multi-faceted strategy designed to reduce bTB levels and achieve bTB eradication in the long term. The disease is complex, persistent, and all factors which contribute to the maintenance and spread of the disease must be addressed which includes the role of wildlife and specifically badgers.
Further information on the Departments Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) Eradication Strategy is available on the DAERA website at Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Strategy for Northern Ireland | Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (daera-ni.gov.uk)
A key component of the Strategy is to address the role of wildlife in the spread of bTB, where necessary, via a programme of non-selective badger culling in areas of higher-than-average badger social group density and prolonged high density of bTB breakdown herds. Where identified by the Department, such areas, known as intervention areas, will likely be approximately 100km2 but may be larger. Where such intervention is necessary the intervention methodology will be the same as that adopted in England, that being the controlled shooting of free roaming badgers between dusk and dawn; supplemented by cage trap and shooting.
The Department is now inviting Expressions of Interests from companies to deliver the culling element of the strategy if and when required. The closing date for receipt of completed Expression of Interest forms is 5pm on 21st April 2023.
Expression of interest forms can be viewed, downloaded and / or printed from the DAERA website. Application form
Any successful company would eventually enter into a contract with the department on a not-for-profit basis with the company funding any cull itself and the Department providing authorisation and oversight. Further details are provided below.
Any cull ultimately determined to be necessary would then be delivered by the successful company on a self-financing basis, whilst meeting the key objectives of the strategy and fully engaging with the monitoring and evaluation arrangements required to provide assurance to the Department. No final decision has yet been taken as to whether any cull in a particular intervention area will be authorised and success in this process does not guarantee any cull will be delivered.
The following requirements will be necessary to complete a successful cull:
- In each selected area a reduction of the badger population of approximately 70% is required for the cull to be deemed effective.
- In each selected area the cull should be carried out on the land in a single sustained and intensive 6 week period between 1st September and 30th November.
- £107,000 is the approximate sum that any prospective cull company should demonstrate they have access to in order to deliver the cull, as this is estimated to equal the total cost of completing the annual cull in each area over four years, plus one additional year at approximately £21.4k per area per year.
- It is estimated that 40-60 fully trained and accredited part-time staff will be required for shooting and trapping purposes to deliver the cull per each 100km2 selected area per year.
The key stages of the process are as follows:
Expression of Interest (stage 1) - Application form
The purpose of this Expression of Interest is to gauge the interest from applicants in delivering the wildlife intervention to the required standards and timelines in line with monitoring and evaluation requirements.
The EoI stage is a mandatory stage to assist both applicants and DAERA to prepare for the delivery of the Wildlife Intervention element of the new departmental Bovine TB Eradication Strategy. It is designed to capture specific information about the applicant’s ability to provide the required service to the Department prior before moving forward to the full application process (Stage 2). It will also help DAERA to gauge the level of interest and to show how many organisations there are in the market who are capable and prepared to provide the required service.
The EoI stage does not constitute a commitment by the Department to proceed to the Full Application stage of the scheme. A final decision on the opening of the application stage will be made following completion of the Expression of Interest stage.
Applicants at stage one should consider their ability to deliver the requirements of the cull, which include but are not limited to:
- A company to be registered at Companies House before commencement of the cull with the power to enter into a legally binding contract with the Department.
- Delivery of a cull in any area of Northern Ireland. Each area can be between 100km2 – 1200km2. This may mean delivering a cull in multiple areas within NI each year.
- The ability to recruit and retain a sufficient number of trained and accredited individuals to carry out an effective and humane cull and/or cage trapping as required
- The ability to engage in all training and culling activities primarily between dusk and dawn as badgers are more active at night.
- The ability to deliver this cull activity for a minimum of four years within each intervention area.
- Providing this service on a self-financing basis
- Confirmation of funding availability to deliver the cull activity over a minimum four-year period.
Full application - (Stage 2), the final stage before assessment and awarding of contract to the Cull Company.
A full application at stage 2 will be available to those companies who have correctly completed the Expression of Interest form (Stage 1) and will capture in depth detail about your ability to deliver the required Wildlife intervention.
What happens next
Your application will be logged, and an acknowledgement issued to the contact information provided in your response. This will enable you to apply to Stage 2 of the application process at a later stage (subject to eligibility).
Prior to stage 2 of the application process commencing the Department will write to eligible applicants from Stage 1 detailing the next steps in the process and the additional information and evidence required from applicants to complete the application process.