There is little evidence that badgers and dairy cows interact with each other directly, according to Dr Declan O’Mahony, from the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute in Northern Ireland.
Using recently developed proximity collars, which allow the extent of close range interactions between animals to be determined, O’Mahony has provided the first data on how often badgers and cattle come within close contact at pasture in Northern Ireland.
“Proximity collars represent a new technology, which allows a hitherto unprecedented level of data to be obtained on interactions between animals,” he said.
O’Mahony and his team put collars on badgers and cattle in a 1,350 hectare study area during a 5 month period. They then collected the collars and downloaded the information so that the amount of close range contact between each species could be determined.
“Local farmers were instrumental to this study as they gave us permission to put collars on cattle and also assisted in the process. Without their help we would not have been able to undertake this study and we are very grateful to them”, said O’Mahony.
In total, over 376,000 interactions were recorded on the proximity collars that were deployed.
O Mahony confirmed that the study found that all collared cattle interacted with each other within the different herds studied and also that all collared badgers interacted with each other in their different social.
“However, at no time were badgers and cattle recorded as coming within direct close-range contact with each other during the study,” he said.
“Whilst this might seem to be an unlikely result, it is supported by an increasing body of evidence that suggests close-range contact between badgers and cattle may not be a common occurrence.
“Whilst direct interactions between cattle and badgers were not recorded in this study that does of course not necessarily mean that interactions do not occur. It does support the increasing evidence that such contact is likely to be at a very low level, but still may be important if infected animals are involved.”