Interactions between badgers and cattle in the rural environment

An integrated research project was conducted on badgers (Meles meles) and cattle in Northern Ireland to provide data on the ecology of badgers; quantify the level of direct interactions between badgers and cattle at pasture; and determine the frequency of badger visits to farmyards and buildings.

The aim of the project

The project aimed to quantify potential bovine tuberculosis (bTB) transmission routes between badgers and cattle in an area of Northern Ireland that had a regionally high incidence of bTB in livestock. The project began in November 2011 and was completed in March 2014.

The study took place in Co. Down in a 1,350 hectares (13.5km2) study area that comprised a minimum of 10-15 contiguous farms with several hundred individual cattle and 15 badger social groups.

Within the study area a number of integrated studies of badgers, livestock, and farmyards occurred. For badgers, these included determining local abundance and social organisation through techniques such as sett surveys, bait marking and live-trapping of badgers, which allowed the attachment of GPS collars or proximity collars to badgers. Cattle were also equipped with proximity collars which allowed close range interactions (2 metres or less) between individual herd members and badgers to be investigated at pasture. Farmyards and buildings were surveyed using motion activated infra-red cameras to determine the level of badger activity in farmyards and investigate what factors may influence badger intrusion rates. This was the first study that investigated close range cattle and badger contact patterns, and badger activity in farms in Northern Ireland.

The study provided unique data on the extent of interactions within and between badger and cattle populations and on the ecology of badgers at farm and local level in an intensively farmed area that had a high incidence of bTB. This may add considerably to the current TB eradication strategy in the region and in Northern Ireland more generally.

The final report is available to download at the link below:

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