THE REMAINING 3000 BSE cohort cattle based on farms across the UK are to be slaughtered in preparation for the lifting of the Over-30-Months Scheme.

The necessary slaughter of these animals has the backing of the NFU and the National Beef Association and will begin towards the end of February.

DEFRA will get in touch with those farmers affected with details shortly.

“The UK has made incredible progress on BSE over the last few years. The removal of these animals and the eventual lifting of the OTM ban will finally allow us to put the scar of BSE behind us,” said Kevin Pearce, NFU chief livestock adviser.

“Should the UK meet its targets, then there is no reason why the ban shouldn’t be lifted by July. But it all depends on whether the Food Standards Agency is satisfied with the controls put in place,” he added.

Speaking at the NFU council meeting on Tue (Jan 18), Mr Pearce was quick to reassure members that they should not worry about incurring any significant financial loss as cohort cattle are valued as breeding cattle and not as OTM cattle.

During 2004 the number of cows observed to be suffering from BSE fell to 78, a further 210 were identified through active surveillance up to mid October 2004. Of those, 200 were fallen stock and casualty cattle and the remainder were 1996/97 cohorts and OTM animals pre-feed ban.

The UK figures now compare with other European countries’, at under 10 cases per million cattle born after July 31, 1996 (apart from Portugal with 40 cases/million). This is particularly encouraging news as the NFU continues to lobby ministers here and in Brussels to downgrade the UK’s risk status from high to medium – similar to other European countries.

“We have a strong case to see our risk assessment downgraded to medium given that Portugal has just achieved it,” said Mr Pearce.

A medium risk status would also allow the UK to dissolve the Date Based Export Scheme and enjoy unfettered trade similar to other European countries.

 andrew.watts@rbi.co.uk