Case study – Officially TB free farm

This farmer’s family has kept cattle on the holding in Gloucestershire since the 1930’s. The first TB breakdown on the farm happened in the early 1960’s, and since then occasional TB breakdowns have occurred. The herd has been officially TB free since 2008. The farm was originally a closed dairy herd until seven years ago, since when it has been an open herd raising beef cattle and dairy heifers, with 80–100 calves bought in annually. There is one neighbouring cattle herd with potential for nose-to-nose contact.

The farm is within the Defra and Fera Badger Vaccine Deployment Project area, where badgers were trapped and injected with BCG vaccine between 2010 and 2014. The farm also participated in a Fera biosecurity study from 2007-2009, funded by Defra. During the first year of the study, surveillance cameras occasionally observed badgers entering the cattle yards, cattle sheds and feed stores on the farm. For the second year of the study, biosecurity measures were installed to prevent badgers entering cattle sheds and feed stores on the farm. There are many active badger setts in the extensive woodland bordering the grazing pasture. The farmer often sees badger feeding signs at pasture. In the past, badger faeces has been found inside feed troughs in the yard. Badgers were prevented from accessing the cattle yard, cattle sheds and feed stores in 2008.

Cattle feed stored on the farm includes hay and grass silage, with concentrates stored in feed bins and barley kept in a trailer in an open barn. No supplementary feeds or cattle licks are provided for the cattle at pasture. Cattle feed is bought in for the winter and maize has not been grown or stored on the farm after dairy herd ended seven years ago. The biosecurity measures Fera installed in cattle sheds in 2008 involved lowering gates to ground level and replacing old five-bar gates with sheet metal gates. Metal panels were fitted to enclose the yard where gaps existed. Feed stores were secured with either old doors being patched up with metal panels, or new doors fitted. Tyre ruts under doors were filled with concrete to lessen the gap to the ground. During the second year with the biosecurity measures in place, surveillance cameras showed that badgers could no longer access the cattle yards, cattle sheds or feed stores.

The farmer thought the biosecurity measures had been very thorough and successful in their objectives. The biosecurity measures have not changed any of his daily practices and when maintenance to gates or buildings is required, the same principles have been adopted. He added “although it was a fairly big job, something could be done here. The measures have been very effective at sealing off the yard and farm buildings from wildlife. We still see signs of badger activity close to the farm, but there is no easy way for them to get into the yards”.