DORSET is set to become one of the first counties for a badger cull if they are rolled out next year.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson has praised Dorset farmers as the county stood by as a reserve site for test culls this summer.

The two pilot culls are going ahead in Gloucestershire and Somerset aimed at tackling tuberculosis in cattle.

Mr Paterson earmarked Dorset as one of 10 sites when he spoke recently in Cornwall.

He said: “I’m confident the cull will go ahead in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

“But I’m very pleased with the way Dorset farmers reacted, going to all the trouble of preparing, without any certainty of getting it this year.

“They can move pretty quickly, and I’m confident they will be first in the queue next year.”

Mr Paterson, who was speaking at the Royal Cornwall Show, said that he would decide where the next 10 culls go ahead if the pilots are a success this year.

He added: “We are absolutely convinced that we are doing the right thing.

“This is vital for wildlife, vital for our farming industry and vital for the health of the countryside."

Defra has refused to say when and exactly where the pilot culls are going ahead in Somerset and Gloucestershire but they were due to start at the beginning of June.

The pilot culls are due to last for six weeks.

An area in Dorset – which has also been kept secret – was prepared as a reserve area in case one of the pilots could not proceed.

Dorset National Farmers Union (NFU) chairman Paul Gould said: “I very much welcome Mr Paterson’s comments.

“Dorset was selected as a reserve and some hard work has been done somewhere in the county.

“His comments are obviously an acknowledgement of what has been happening.

“It is very encouraging and for others that want to get going for next year.”

Mr Gould added: “He is determined to get it happening.

“We are following his lead.

“It is encouraging that there is a politician who is saying one thing and actually doing the same thing.

“Some 35,000 cattle had to be slaughtered because of the TB in 2012.”


Plans for vaccinations

ELIZABETH James from the Dorset Mammal Group said that there were plans to vaccinate badgers in Dorset.

“There has been a vaccination scheme for the past 10 months in Somerset and parts of Gloucestershire.

“A lot of farmers have come on board for that. Four people from Dorset are going to Gloucestershire and will be trained on how to vaccinate.”

She added that a team will vaccinate in Dorset, probably starting on Dorset Wildlife Trust land although it could be rolled out on other land.

She said that not all farmers were in favour of a cull.