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Badger vaccination plans for 2018!

Monday 11th December

Badger vaccination plans for 2018!

Vital vaccination programme in Vale of Belvoir winds down as badgers seek shelter from the cold – but wildlife charity already shaping its plans for tackling bovine tuberculosis in 2018

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, the county’s largest locally based conservation charity, is winding down its badger vaccination programme for the winter as badgers spend increasing amounts of time underground sheltering from the worst of weather and gestating their cubs. However, plans for more vaccinations to help prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis in 2018 are already at an advanced stage – provided the charity can secure sufficient funding.

The charity, which was established in 1963 to protect local wildlife and wildlife habitats, has been vaccinating badgers against the disease in an area of almost 50 square kilometres in the Vale of Belvoir on the Nottinghamshire Leicestershire border between Tithby and Long Clawson since 2015.

Bovine tuberculosis is a huge problem which has the potential to devastate herds of cattle with serious consequences for farmers and farm businesses. The Wildlife Trusts believe that vaccination of badgers is a key part of an effective strategy, alongside tighter animal husbandry and long-term investment in a cattle vaccine, to reduce the spread of this disease whilst ensuring that our native wild badger population can thrive.

The latest phase of the local programme has resulted in vaccinations at 20 separate setts across 10 farms. Speaking about the initiative Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s Head of Conservation Janice Bradley said: “The Vale of Belvoir is a very important dairy and beef farming area and we believe that it is essential to prevent bovine tuberculosis from spreading from the worst hit areas such as the South West and West Midlands. Our aim is to vaccinate the local badger population to build up herd immunity. By working with farmers to vaccinate badgers on their land we believe we can help contain this devastating disease and keep the charismatic badger in this wonderful pastoral landscape”.

The Wildlife Trusts have been at the forefront of efforts to develop effective vaccination programmes across England and believes that vaccination provides a more effective means of controlling the spread of the disease than culling. The Government’s decision in September to extend the areas where culling of badgers can now be licenced has brought the need for the local vaccination programme into sharp focus.

By taking positive action to control the spread of the disease Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust believes that it can help protect badgers and cattle and support farm businesses which play an integral part in maintaining the local landscape. In areas with considerable dairy and beef farming, such as the Vale of Belvoir, a wonderful pastoral landscape of green fields criss-crossed with hedgerows has developed. In addition to being attractive and much loved, this landscape supports a wide variety of wildlife in addition to badgers, with many species of farmland birds, such as yellowhammers and grey partridge, and small mammals thriving in the hedgerows and a great diversity of invertebrates living in the pastures.

The Trust, which works closely with farmers across the County to create a wildlife-rich landscape by encouraging wildlife onto farmland and connecting remaining fragments of high quality habitat, has been delighted by the levels of support received from farmers willing to provide access to their land and make a contribution towards the cost of vaccination.

Mrs Bradley continued: “Our programme is one of a number of Wildlife Trust led initiatives designed to help prevent the disease spreading from the worst affected areas. The Vale of Belvoir is famous for producing Stilton cheese and the rolling green pastures of its characteristic landscape are inextricably linked with dairy farming. There have been a number of herd breakdowns in the past and if bovine TB were to get a hold locally it could have a devastating impact on the dairy and beef industry. Some farmers may even choose to move away from the dairy business altogether and this could be a disaster for the farmers, the local landscape and the local badger population - so we’re determined to work with farmers to play our part in keeping it at bay. “

Vaccinations won’t start again until May when badger all cubs have finished weaning, but the Trust hopes that 2018 will be a big year for this important programme. With plans for 2018 already in place Mrs Bradley explained that the only thing likely to prevent vaccinations taking place next year would be a lack of funds.

“We are delighted that Defra has restated its commitment to part-funding badger vaccination programmes in England for the next 4 years. The support we receive from farmers is very important to help match the Defra funds, but it isn’t sufficient to cover all our costs. Whilst we can keep costs down thanks to the efforts of our amazing, dedicated volunteers, we do need to secure grant funding, corporate support and public donations to continue this vital work. Without additional support we won’t be able to complete our programme and this would be a real blow, as we believe it is making a real contribution to tackling this serious issue”.

The Trust is keen to hear from anyone interested in sponsoring or supporting the 2018 vaccination programme and individual donations can be made via the Trust’s Just Giving Badger vaccination appeal page  or texting BADG20 £5 to 70070. 

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