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Canadian case of mad cow disease serves as a reminder

CowsNorth Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarians have issued a reminder about the importance of monitoring for diseases in cattle herds.  A recent case of mad cow disease (or Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE) in Canada serves as a reminder as to how fortunate Australia is to be free from such diseases.  The disease is a progressive, fatal neurological disease in cattle caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. The disease is spread through meat meal fed to cattle.

How can we keep it out?

In Australia it is illegal to feed ruminants (eg cattle, sheep, goats, deer) what is termed Restricted Animal Material or RAM. RAM includes meat, meat and bone meal, blood meal, poultry offal meal, feather meal, fish meal or any other animal meals or manure. It does not include milk or milk products. As meat meal can be included in pig or poultry feed it is important that ruminants do not have access to these feeds – they will have a statement on their label which states "This product contains restricted animal material – do not feed to cattle, sheep goats, deer or other ruminants". If the product is suitable for ruminants it will state "this product does not contain restricted animal material".  These bans help prevent BSE and also satisfy the requirements of some or our meat export markets.

Australia's surveillance program

Ian Poe, North Coast Local Land Services Team Leader for Animal Biosecurity and Welfare said "It is not simply enough for Australia to claim not to have BSE, we must be actively looking and demonstrating to our trading partners that we are free."

"To prove our freedom from BSE we have the National TSE (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy) surveillance program. This involves collecting and examining the brains from cattle and sheep showing neurological signs to exclude diseases such as BSE and scrapie as the cause," Ian continued.

To be eligible cattle need to be between 30 months and 8 years of age, and be displaying some sort of neurological signs.(Sheep need to be over 18 months of age). These neurological signs include signs such as inability to stand, paralysis, staggery gait, blindness, and  behavioural changes. The program offers incentives to producers who provide eligible animals for sample collection of $300 for cattle and $100 for sheep.

For more information on restricted animal material or the National TSE surveillance program contact your North Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarian.


Photo caption:          Beef production is a vital earner for the North Coast Region
Media contact:          Ian Poe, Team Leader, Animal Biosecurity and Welfare
                                              Phone 0429 987 255