A few weeks ago I wrote about some research carried out by Exeter University which showed that areas which grew 10ha of maize on their land (as winter fodder for cattle) were 20% more likely to have TB outbreaks in their cattle herds – see here.
Well after publishing the blog I was contacted by Chris Baker who I had been out surveying mosses with in Fingle Woods earlier this year who also has an interest in this topic. Indeed he had written an article in the Guardian about it in 2007. Click here for the link to the article.
In essence the article tells the story of a farmer, Dick Roper, in the Cotswolds who noticed that after he started growing maize on his farm he started to have TB breakdowns in his herd which he had never had before. He also knew that if you feed cattle with maize you also have to provide supplementary nutrients specifically selenium. He wondered whether the badgers who were also eating the maize had a selenium deficiency too and this in some way this was linked to the transmission of TB on his farm. As a result he started to put out selenium in the fields in small blocks of molasses which the badgers then ate and ….. yes the incidence of TB in his cattle dropped substantially. OK – its all very anecdotal but maybe there is a link between mineral deficiency in badgers and cattle which plays a part in the transmission of TB.
Several things spring to mind, firstly this piece was written 8 years ago, secondly as far as I know DEFRA haven’t followed it up and thirdly if I was a diary farmer and had TB problems I would want to give it a go to see if it made a difference.