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270 Farmers and 27000 Cattle Sought To Solve TB Mystery

Originally published 20 February 2002

Researchers at the University of Warwick want to move quickly to seize a unique opportunity to get a new understanding of how bovine TB spreads. The restocking of herds after the FMD epidemic provides a unique pattern of the cattle movement and mixing that could provide clues to the many unanswered questions about bovine TB. Indeed that movement of cattle is already throwing up new questions. For example, 90 of 6000 farms restocked after FMD have since “broken down” and developed cases of Bovine TB –why these 90?

The University of Warwick research team are conducting a long-term study across England, but particularly focusing on the South West, comparing restocked versus non-restocked farms. They will collect information on cattle movement within and between farms and will compare the risks of TB breakdown with different management and environmental effects.

To undertake this study they need access to 27000 cows, 81000 blood samples, 81000 cow records and interviews with 270 farmers. The research team has already recruited over 80 farms. The researchers are not looking for farmers to approach them. The study requires the researchers to approach a randomly selected set of farms. If farmers have received such an invitation the researchers are keen for the farmers to understand that they have not received some general mail shot but have been specifically invited to participate and the research team would very much like to hear from them.

The work is funded by Defra, but run by the University of Warwick independent of Defra. It is completely separate from the Kreb’s trial looking at Badger culling. The badger culling trial has been set up to study badger-cow spread. The basic question being asked by the Krebs trials is: If you kill the badgers, do the cows get less TB? The Warwick study is asking an additional question: Does moving cows change the herd breakdown risk, and if so, how? The Warwick team are seeking to enrol restocked farms and non-restocked farms chosen at random from within the badger trial areas.

The research team is in the Ecology and Epidemiology Group, Biological Sciences Department, The University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL Tel: 0800 389 1578, fax 02476 524619, email

For further information contact:
Dr Graham Medley,
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Warwick
Tel: 024 76 524456