U.K. to field-test bovine TB vaccine

Research: News Roundup from the April 2020 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

A badger lingers near its sett in Wales. Badgers are known to spread TB to cattle in the U.K., but a new cattle vaccine may halt the country’s badger cull.

Scientists in the U.K. have developed a vaccine and effective test for bovine tuberculosis (TB), the BBC reports.

The development is sure to be welcomed by beef and dairy producers, who face devastating losses from the disease. Between October 2018 and 2019, 12,742 cows were slaughtered to combat TB in Wales alone, representing a 24 per cent increase over the previous year, the BBC reports. The U.K.’s Farm Crisis Network released a report outlining the emotional and financial toll of dealing with a positive TB test. The report noted that while more than half of farms with a positive test were under restrictions for less than a year, some had lived under restrictions for five years or more.

TB has also pitted cattle producers against animal welfare and wildlife groups, who protested the country’s badger culls as ineffective and inhumane. The U.K.’s badgers are known to carry the disease and spread it to cattle, and so the government started culling badgers in 2013. The government culled badgers from 40 areas, the Daily Mail reports, and has stated that the cull reduced TB incidence by 66 per cent and 37 per cent in Gloucestershire and Somerset over four years. Gloucestershire and Somerset were the areas first hit by TB.

The U.K.’s Animal and Plant Health Agency has developed both a vaccine and a test that can differentiate between animals vaccinated for TB and infected animals, which has been a sticking point in the past. The government will be conducting field trials of the cattle vaccine and the test. Officials expect the cattle vaccine to be deployed in the next five years, the Daily Mail reports. They also plan to vaccinate more badgers in a bid to stop the disease’s spread.

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