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Localised reactive badger culling increases the risk of herd breakdown on nearby land

J. Bielby, F. Vial, R. Woodroffe, C. A. Donnelly

BOVINE tuberculosis (TB) is an important disease affecting the UK livestock industry. Control efforts are complicated by the presence of a wildlife host, the Eurasian badger (Meles meles), which has been implicated in the transmission of TB to cattle. Repeated large-scale badger culls implemented during the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) have been associated with decreased cattle risks inside the culling area, but also with increased cattle risks up to 2 km outside the culling area.

Given that cattle herds occupy land within a network of largely contiguous, adjoining farms, it is important to understand the spatial scale over which localised culling may affect risks to nearby cattle. This study, using data from the RBCT between 1998 to 2003, investigated the importance of the distance between badger cull sites and the risk of breakdown in surrounding herds by undertaking a matched-pair case-control study. The aim was to identify the distance over which localised culling had its largest effect on risk of herd-breakdown (<1 km, 1-3 km, 3-5 km from the culled land).

Each case (a confirmed herd breakdown) within a reactively culled RBCT area …

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