13 August 1997
Irish BSE outbreak destroys three years work

By Boyd Champness

A LEADING dairy research centre in Ireland will be forced to cull 560 cattle and scrap three years of research work following the discovery that one of its cows has contracted BSE.

The Dairy Research Product Centre at Moorepark, in County Cork, has been carrying out research work which aimed to increase profitability from individual cows by increasing production.

The fact that the four-year-old cow contracted the disease, despite being part of a grass-based programme, has baffled the research team.

Head of dairy production research Kevin OFarrell said the Irish Department of Agriculture was now investigating the case, but it was possible the cow had contracted the disease when it was fed concentrated feed that may have contained contaminated meat and bone meal as a calf.

Under Irish regulations, once a cow has been identified as having BSE, the entire herd must be culled. This differs from UK rules, which require the diseased animal to be culled along with cohorts born between 1989 and 1993.

“The whole thing has to be taken into context. Because we are a state farm it heightens the issue, but the reality is that the number of recorded BSE cases in Ireland is declining and will continue to decline,” Mr OFarrell said.

The number of BSE cases in Ireland is falling every month, with 41 cases recorded for the year ending in July. Ireland has recorded 229 cases since 1989 which is the second highest figure after the UK.

Mr OFarrell said the discovery was very disappointing and sad for the research team, which had spent the best part of three years with the animals in the project.

“I would like to re-start the programme as quickly as possible. We can re-stock the farm one month after the last animal has left. The sooner we re-start the programme the lower the psychological stress on our staff will be.”

Mr OFarrell said the main aim of the project was to increase milk output to 2000 gallons an acre of grassland by 2000, which equated to 10,000 litres a cow. He said the project was “getting very close” to its production target before the BSE discovery.

The discovery could not have come at a worse time for Ireland, which is currently holding talks with Libya, Iran and Iraq about reopening their export markets to Irish beef. Egypt is accepting Irish beef once again and Russia is purchasing Irish beef from certain counties.