The cow in the recently confirmed isolated case of classical BSE on a Co Louth farm had gone down in early March, but recovered.
Around the end of April, the farmer noted that the animal had lost body condition, with milk yield reduced, and the animal displayed neurological signs such as nervousness and hyper-excitability.
When she fell once again on June 6, she did not recover, and the farmer decided to have the animal euthanised.
The suspect animal was sampled by Department of Agriculture staff at a knackery as part of the on-going official sampling of all fallen (died on farm) animals of 48 months and older.
Samples were tested at the National Reference Laboratory and the EU Reference Laboratory in Weybridge, England. Final test results from both laboratories on June 25 confirmed the case to be classical BSE.
“Last year there were ten isolated one-off single animal cases of BSE throughout the EU. Unfortunately we have had one this year, but we have dealt with it in a very comprehensive way,” said Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.
He confirmed that the farm had a previous BSE incident in 2002, but said it is a really well-run farm, with exemplary cleanliness and organisation. Located near Dundalk, it is a dairy herd of Rotbunt cattle, and 289 cattle in total.
Mr Coveney said, “We cannot pinpoint exactly what caused this, because in all likelihood, it was something the animal ingested six or perhaps five years ago.
“We are sharing our results with other countries in Europe which have had one-off cases in recent years to try to gain a better scientific understanding about how these one-off cases happen.
“We tested current feed on the farm and our inspectors looked at the farm in great detail with regard to feed storage facilities looking for any clues or hints as to how this might have happened.”
“It certainly was not a broad problem in terms of the import of feed, because it was isolated to one animal.”
The Rotbunt female, born on January 14, 2010, was born, reared and spent its entire life on the same farm.
Both her dam and grand-dam were tested for BSE when they were slaughtered as healthy animals in 2006 and in 2013. Both tested negative for BSE. Animals born in the herd in 2009, 2010 and 2011 were identified (which might have consumed the same feed as the infected animal) and the 63 animals were slaughtered, along with the cow’s four progeny. All 67 animals tested negative for BSE.
“No concerns arise regarding the integrity of the commercial feed supply chain or the effectiveness of the feed control systems,” said Mr Coveney.
“We looked at thousands of test results from the years when this animal was growing up and not a single one tested positive for meat and bonemeal, which was connected in the past to BSE.
"We have had a meat and bonemeal ban in animal feed since 2001. All of the indications, surveys and test results show the ban has been rigorously enforced and adhered to by the feed industry in Ireland.”
He said beef markets were very calm with regard to this incident.
“We have not received negative feedback from the countries with which we trade. Of course we have provided information and reassurance to all of them and it seems to be working very well. Beef prices have increased since the incident happened.”
“I believe Irish beef is the safest in the world, and this is the case now as it was a month ago.”
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