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Wild animal visits to farmyards

D. T. O'Mahony

DISEASE transmission between wildlife and livestock can play an important role in farm health. While badgers have been the focus of research into the transmission of Mycobacterium bovis from wildlife to cattle, other wild species can also be infected with M bovis and other pathogens. Visits to farmyards by multiple free-roaming species could potentially increase the risk of diseases transmission and compromise on-farm biosecurity. This study aimed to assess the rate of visitation by cats, red foxes, rodents and badgers to farmyards in Northern Ireland using continuous surveillance.

Eleven cattle farmyards in an area of Northern Ireland where the incidence of bovine TB was high were included in the study. At each farmyard, an infrared motion-activated camera was placed at potential entry points for free-roaming animals for approximately one year. A total of 83 cameras were used, with between one and 17 per farmyard. The footage was assessed and the results analysed statistically.

Cats were the most frequent visiting species, and visited nine of the 11 farmyards, with visits from cats occurring on between 11 and 94 per cent of nights on different farms. Rodents, foxes and badgers visited less often. Of the 3935 visits from animals across all nights, …

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