TB Free England

Bovine TB (bTB) devastates thousands of farming family businesses every year and tens of thousands of cattle are culled annually in England because of it. Find out more about bTB, its impact, and why we must use all available options to make England TB free.

 Cattle culled in England because of bovine TB since January 1 2008

How does bTB move between badgers and cattle?

A badger with bTB can infect cattle in several ways.

Badger latrine_275_206The primary route is inhalation, with cattle breathing in the bacteria from the air.

However, infection from cows eating contaminated material is also an important route.

Clinical sampling of live badgers has shown that bTB bacteria can be isolated from sputum, faeces, urine, bite wounds and draining abscesses. Badger latrine sites, where badgers urinate or defecate in fields, can contaminate grass with bacteria, which can then be transmitted to the cows when they graze.

Similarly, badgers mark their territory by urinating and this is often spread across cattle pastures.

Badger showing TB lesion_275_154If a badger has TB infection in its kidneys it will excrete a very high level of TB bacteria on to the grass. If an infected badger eats or drinks from cattle feed or water troughs, they can spread TB bacteria through their saliva, which infects the cows when they eat or drink from these contaminated sources.

Infected badgers can also spread the bacteria through open cuts and wounds.

Badger eating feed and cow_275_160There is also the potential for direct transmission of bacteria through nose-to-nose contact between badgers and cattle.

This can occur when badgers visit farm yards and there is substantial evidence to show close contact in farm buildings as well as regular visits from badgers to cattle feed stores.