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Effect of Climate on Bovine TB in Cattle


Dr Elaine King from the Badger Trust


As well as wildlife, many factors such as mineral deficiency, cubicle housing, soil type and spreading slurry that has not previously been stored, may be linked with the spread of cattle TB. The impact of climate has been little considered yet cool damp conditions predispose many cattle diseases, particularly those that are airborne.

The paper presented results from Elaine King's PhD research which examined the effect of climate on the incidence of btb in cattle and investigated the survival of btb under simulated environmental conditions.


  • The effect of climatic conditions on the number of herd breakdowns over a ten-year period was examined using the 'WINDOW' computer software program, which is used in the US to predict the severity of crop diseases.

  • The program found that high rainfall, low temperatures and low levels of sunlight were very closely matched to outbreaks of btb in cattle. The accuracy of these matches was highly significant: 87% for rainfall; 80% for temperature and 71% for sunlight.

  • WINDOW also identified periods of greatest risk to cattle from late March to early June. A shorter window of high risk was also identified in the autumn.

  • Laboratory experiments supported the findings. They showed that low levels of sunlight, low temperatures and high relative humidity, favour btb survival.

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