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Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) has clearly become a major issue amongst camelid breeders coupled with the possibility of valuable livestock contracting the disease from infected Badgers. Many owners are now seeking to exclude the badgers from their property to protect valuable breeding stock from infection.
A large part of the badger's diet consists of earthworms and grubs which they find in areas of turf such as pastures. Hence it may be necessary to exclude them from these areas.
There are two methods of badger exclusion and both involve fencing. Firstly there is the conventional high tensile mesh fence. It is highly ornate, involves burying the wire in to prevent badgers digging under and very expensive. Whilst very effective, Badgers have been reported to clamber over these fences.
The next solution is to use an appropriate electric fence to give the badgers a sharp, but non-lethal "sting" on the nose if they try to get into a protected area. Electric fencing has been shown to be highly effective in excluding badgers in scientifically sanctioned trials whilst the cost is a fraction of the conventional fence.
There are two types of fencing applicable to excluding Badgers.
- Strained-wire fences consist of a series of electrified parallel conducting wires at varying heights above the ground. The conducting wires of strained-wire fences can be made from either polythene twine interwoven with steel strands (polywire) or galvanised steel. The steel wire is a better conductor, far more durable and is cheaper.
- Electric netting consisting of a woven mesh of poly twines containing electrical filaments. These are very easy to erect and move, very effective but are more intrusive and require larger energisers.
If both fence types are maintained properly they are equally effective. However, galvanised steel fences appear to be more effective than their poly wire counterparts. There is a greater proportion of the wire open to contact and wire will last a lot longer than plastic twine – up to 20 years.
Electric fencing systems are very light and simple to understand so lend themselves comfortably to DIY possibilities. Maintenance of a well constructed fence is not a problem and revolves around a daily test of the voltage in the line and only then is an inspection required if this is seen to be inadequate. New technology high-voltage energisers (HotShock) are very low maintenance and highly effective.
The strained-wire fence system is constructed of electrified parallel conducting wires at heights of 15, 20, 30 and 45cm (6, 8, 12 and 18 inches) above the ground. The wires, which are all live, are held by adjustable plastic insulators supported on wooden stakes. A very viable alternative is to use short 50cm plastic "tread-in" posts similar to those employed in horse yards as they provide both the posts and insulators in one item. The corners and ends are normally more robust wooden posts with insulators applied.
Electric netting varies in height and mesh size, and come in 50m rolls fitted with spiked posts at regular intervals and a clip at each end to join rolls together. These fences are very easy and quick to erect and dismantle but do require stronger energisers and require more maintenance to keep the vegetation away from the bottom strands than a line fence.
The electric fence needs to be used between dusk and dawn until each visiting badger has had a "sting" on the nose. The best guesstimate is that they will remain effective for at least 98% of badgers who have been stung (as exceedingly few like to receive a second sting).
Electric fences must be powered by a specialised energiser (which gets its power from the mains or from a 12v battery). If you use a 12v battery, you will need two batteries, so you can charge one up on a trickle-charger, whilst the other one of electrifying the fence. When badgers encountered the fences for the first time their initial response is the same as would be expected for any unfamiliar object. In most instances, badgers approach the fences cautiously before investigating, usually with their nose that is poorly insulated and packed with sensitive nerve endings. Any individual touching an electrified fence with their nose will, therefore, receive a sharp shock and subsequently learn to avoid the area. Badgers are normally inquisitive and do not normally require encouragement but should this be necessary then investigatory behaviour may encouraged and a number of approaches have been used to achieve this. These include attaching proprietary bait caps, unfamiliar objects or food items to the fence.
Badgers that have definitely been seen to touch the electrified wires responded by retreating immediately to the nearest harbourage. This response was most marked when the badgers concerned touched the electrified wires with their noses. Badgers do not appear overly stressed by the receipt of an electric shock. They have not been seen to dig under an Electric Fence.