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The use of farm buildings by wildlife and the implications for interspecific disease transmission
Ledger, Sophie Emily
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
1. Livestock diseases in the UK are a cause of substantial economic losses to farmers and to the government every year. The majority of cattle diseases in the UK can be carried by wildlife. The implications of these wildlife species, which are disease reservoirs visiting farm buildings have not been fully investigated in terms of the potential for disease transmission to cattle. 2. This study analyses the observations of wildlife visits to forty farms, surveyed in the South-West of England and collected by motion-triggered infrared cameras in farm buildings over a year. Species trends of visits are identified and the implications these trends might have for disease transmission specific to cattle are also discussed. 3. Foxes, rabbits and rats were found to visit farms throughout the entire year and were found both in cattle sheds and feed stores. Foxes were found to visit farms consistently with a peak of visits in November and December. October, November and December were found to receive the greatest number of visits from rats. Rabbit visits were found to increase in late summer and early autumn. Rabbit visits were found to decrease with an increase in rainfall. The implications of these findings for disease transmission to cattle are: the higher level of fox visits in November and December could provide an increased risk of transmission of bTB, bovine brucellosis, Paratuberculosis, Salmonella, Leptospirosis and Cryptosporidiosis. The peak of rat visits in the winter could provide an increased risk of transmission of Salmonella, Leptospirosis, Cryptosporidiosis and E. coli 0157. The increase of rabbit visits in the late summer months could provide an elevated risk of transmission of Paratuberculosis and E. coli 0157. 4. Synthesis and applications. Effective control of diseases of livestock, which have wildlife reservoirs, should take into account all potential routes of transmission. This report highlights the need for further study into the role of wildlife visits to farm buildings in the UK, as a potential route of disease transmission to cattle.
University of Exeter
MbyRes in Biosciences