Royal Agricultural University trials prove effectiveness of biosecurity technology

The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) recently completed a three month trial assessing the effectiveness of the Badger Beater feeder, made by Rumenco Ltd, in preventing badger access to mineral lick buckets and blocks.

Due to the complex nature of the control of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) at pasture, the uptake of farm biosecurity in the field has been low for a number of reasons; including levels of practicality, perceived effectiveness and cost. As a result, the Badger Beater was designed to reduce the potential contact between cattle and badgers in an attempt to potentially reduce the spread of bTB. The Badger Beater holds Rumevite blocks, buckets and tubs off the ground to reduce badger contact with mineral licks. The feeder is 1m high; the DEFRA recommended badger-proof feeding height.

A trial site at the University Manor Hill Farm at Harnhill was selected because it is near an active badger sett. A control measure (a normal mineral lick bucket placed on the ground) and the Badger Beater were baited with peanuts, and the badger interaction was filmed using infra-red cameras. The Badger Beater was also trialled with cattle to ensure it was practical and durable, which it was.

The trials demonstrated that over a period of 73 nights, there were no successful attempts from badgers to access the mineral lick held by the Badger Beater, while badgers were seen to access the contents of a conventional mineral lick bucket. The study concludes that the use of the Badger Beater is likely to prevent badgers from accessing the contents of a mineral lick, despite the use of peanuts in the trial to further entice them.

Dr Rhiannon Naylor, Lecturer in Rural Land Use and Management at the Royal Agricultural University, said: “Based on our results we are pleased to confirm that, during the trial period, the Badger Beater successfully prevented badger access to mineral lick buckets. Biosecurity at grazing is particularly difficult, but this measure provides farmers with an additional tool to minimise the contact between badgers and cattle.”

It is well recognised that biosecurity is an important component of effective disease control, and thus it is essential to establish the practicality and most importantly, the effectiveness of various on-farm measures. Such trials are therefore essential to encourage farmer uptake of biosecurity measures.