FARMERS are being urged to help in the fight against the spread of bovine TB in Cumbria by reporting on the whereabouts of badger setts.

The call was made by veterinary officer Tanis Brough as she addressed a public meeting at Stoneybeck Inn, Penrith, updating farmers on the latest situation with the disease after an outbreak in Eden earlier this year.

Robert Threlfell, of Plumpton Head Farm, near Penrith, was devastated when tests came back positive, leading to 103 of his 260 milkers being slaughtered.

Gonzalo Sanchez-Cabezudo, Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency's (AHVLA) regional veterinary lead, confirmed the disease was then found in a neighbouring farm and at one in Kirkby Stephen.

Experts are awaiting results from four other farms - two in Cumbria and two outside the county - which Mr Threlfell sold cattle to before learning some of his cattle had the disease.

Ms Brough, who worked on the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Cumbria in 2001, as well as avian influenza in 2007, said: “I want to make an appeal and ask if anybody knows about any risk factors that you think may be relevant to please contact me.

"If farmers or anyone can let me know of the locations of active or inactive badger setts, they can let me know.

“It is easy for people to say: ‘There’s a lot of badgers, but unless I know where, I can’t work with it, so please if you have that information please give it to me.

"I am not wanting to alarm anybody about badgers, I have no evidence of it being in wildlife, but we need to find out more in order to get a clearer picture.”

“I always describe disease outbreaks like a tap - if a tap is leaking, we can mop up the water on the ground, but unless we go back to the tap and discover the problem, we will only get more.

"We always have to go back to the source and find out why it is happening.”

Ms Brough explained there were two distinct groups at the farm which had the disease - a shed of high yielding milk cows and a group of young bucket-fed calves.

“We are asking the questions, why did it happen in those groups? How did it get in?

"This was a closed herd. Nineteen calves were tested before being sold in November and they were clear, "so the infection most likely occured very late in December.

"It is a completely unknown source.”

Cumbrian farmer Russell Bowman said: “From my point of view, I certainly hope we can get a handle on this situation soon.

"I would urge all farmers to keep in touch with Animal Health and the NFU.”

Anyone who can help should contact 01772 861144.