Deer pose a lower tuberculosis (TB) risk to cattle than badgers, according to two new reports from DEFRA.

The reports come four months after the Government controversially ruled out a badger cull to help combat the spread of TB in cattle. The first survey, Report of the 2006-2007 south-west England and Cotswolds survey of tuberculosis in deer, found that deer on Forestry Commission land in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall have bovine TB at a very low level. It was less than 1 per cent, except in one area where it was present at 3.8 per cent in fallow deer.

However, research in the Cotswolds revealed a high prevalence in two of the three areas sampled where 15.9 per cent and 8.1 per cent of deer were found to be infected.

The key results of the second report, Exposure of cattle to mycobacterium bovis
excreted by deer in south-west England: a quantitative risk assessment, investigated the threat posed to cattle by wild deer. Its main conclusion was that deer pose a lower TB risk to cattle than badgers throughout most of south-west England and Wales.

The rest of this article appears in 4 December issue of Shooting Times.

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