What to do about tuberculosis in cattle

Tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle (Bos primigenius) gets blamed on badgers but I don’t agree. Even our Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Owen Paterson blames badgers for bTB but I think he’s wrong.

I think the spread of bTB has a lot to do with cattle being moved around the country. DEFRA thinks so too. Here’s a list of notifiable diseases affecting livestock in Britain.

Back in 2005, evidence that cattle movements spread bTB hit the news. Every scientist I know dreams of publishing in the academic journal Nature. So I really took notice when I saw that the evidence about cattle movements and bTB was in Nature.

DEFRA announced tighter restrictions on cattle movements in 2011. DEFRA’s Rural Payments Agency (RPA) provides guidance to farmers about complying with the regulations. RPA also provides the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS).

If you’re in Britain or elsewhere in the European Union, next time you see cattle take a look at their ears. See those big yellow ear tags? The law requires cattle to be tagged like this. It requires every movement of those cattle to be recorded.

Perhaps this isn’t such an exciting story for the mainstream press, compared to the badger cull story. But in terms of bovine TB there’s evidence that cattle movements are more important than badgers.


About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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7 Responses to What to do about tuberculosis in cattle

  1. I love the idea of being able to track all livestock. I hope my ears arn’t big enough to hold one of those tags; the security cameras around town should be sufficient. (Oh boy! I went off message again didn’t I?)

  2. Pingback: Badgers and cattle | Science on the Land

  3. Pingback: Owen Paterson talks to farmers | Science on the Land

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