VOLUNTEERS are looking to support local farming communities with an alternative approach to managing bovine TB.

Badger vaccination will begin in May, following a year of preparation, training and fundraising undertaken by the Cheshire Badger Vaccination Programme (CBVP) team.

The CBVP is run by a team of trained volunteers, whose aim is to vaccinate badgers against bovine tuberculosis to reduce the prevalence of bTB in the badger population.

Badger vaccination is being offered free of charge to farmers thanks to the fundraising efforts of the CBVP, with financial support from Cheshire West Council and the availability of matched funding from Defra, who support the vaccination programme.

The planned area for vaccination covers a swathe of land across Cheshire, to create a ‘firebreak’ against bovine TB.

Many landowners and farmers have already signed up for vaccination and the current area in East Cheshire covers 20 Km2, with a similar size area signed up by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Elaine Alexander, who heads up the volunteer team said: “There is clear scientific evidence and published results which prove vaccination reduces the rate of new infections in badgers by 76 per cent, and by vaccinating more than a third of adults in a badger social group, new infections in unvaccinated cubs is reduced by 79 per cent.

“Whilst vaccinating badgers will not solve the issue of bTB in isolation, it should be used as one of a range of control measures including increased biosecurity on farms and risk-based trading of cattle (preventing the spread of infection by stopping the movement of cattle likely to be infected).

“There is also a lot of working going on to improve the standard skin test for TB in cattle as previously there have been many incidents of undetected infection in cattle herds who have then been transported to other areas, thus spreading the infection.

“Bovine TB costs the UK taxpayer an estimated £70 million annually and UK farmers another £50 million annually.

“However, the cost of TB infection should not only be measured in financial terms but in the stress and emotional burden of a TB outbreak to farmers.”

CBVP requires more funds to fulfil its ambitious plans and to continue the programme for four years.

It is keen to hear from companies who would like to discuss corporate sponsorship and individuals can donate via the CBVP Just Giving page (justgiving.com/crowdfunding/cbvp).

Recruitment of more landowners is being prioritised in Mobberley (and towards Quarry Bank) and the Pott Shrigley area. Information evenings are planned in February, with a presentation by Andy Robertson of the APHA.

If any farmers or landowners in these areas are interested in learning more, please contact the CBVP co-ordinator (elaine@cbvp.org.uk).