Vets draw on behavioural science to tackle bovine TB
A new report published by the BVA has set out a new, holistic approach to tackling bovine tuberculosis (bTB).
Developed by an expert working group, the report makes 25 recommendations to guide vets, farmers, and government in bTB control and eradication. At its core is the application of behavioural science, recognising that the actions of vets and farmers are key to successful disease control programmes.
The recommendations include:
- setting up a framework for earned recognition to reward good biosecurity
- enhancing data sharing to support knowledge-based livestock trading and good decision-making on farm
- securing long-term funding for dedicated bTB advisory services
- simplifying and prioritising research priorities
- introducing systems to allow greater data sharing between government vets and private vets
- ensuring continued cooperation and collaboration on bTB between the four UK governments after Brexit.
BVA junior vice president James Russell said the debate around bTB has been 'unhelpfully characterised' in terms of cattle versus badgers. He added that the debate misses the complex issues behind the disease, such as human behaviour and how it can impact decisions.
“For the first time, we’re calling for behavioural science to be front and centre in the approach to bTB research and control,” he said. “This means rewarding good biosecurity practices, providing vets and farmers with the tools and data they need to make evidence-based decisions, and recognising the human impact of this devastating disease.
BVA’s new bTB policy position also identifies five key research priorities for the next five years, including a better understanding of the effects of badger vaccination on the incidence of bTB in cattle and evidence to establish the role of cattle faeces in disease transmission.
The top research goal – the development and validation of a cattle vaccine and DIVA (Differentiating Infected from Vaccinated Animals) test was given a boost last week (23 July) when Defra, the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government announced that cattle vaccination trials would soon get underway in England and Wales.
Mr Russell added: “The deployment of a viable cattle vaccine used in combination with a validated DIVA test has the potential to be an absolute game-changer in our efforts to control and eradicate bovine tuberculosis and is something that our own expert bTB working group has identified as a key priority.”