BSE case revives mother-to-calf fears

29 June 2000

BSE case revives mother-to-calf fears

By FWi staff

FEARS that BSE can be transmitted in the womb have been heightened with the announcement that a cow born after the introduction of tighter controls on feed contracted the disease.

Farm minister Nick Brown announced Thursday (29 June) that a dairy cow born on 25 August, 1996 has been confirmed as a BSE case.

This is the first case of BSE detected in an animal born after controls to guarantee no feed containing meat and bonemeal (MBM) reached dairy cattle became effective on 1 August, 1996.

Infected MBM is widely believed to be the most likely source of BSE.

Assuming the animal was not fed on rogue stocks of feed containing MBM, this date indicates the Holstein cow contracted BSE from its mother.

However, a ministry of agriculture official admitted it would be almost impossible to establish if this was the first case of maternally transmitted BSE.

The cows mother was slaughtered as a casualty three months after giving birth, and her owner cannot remember why this was done.

The Dorset farmer – who has not been named – ran a mixed dairy and pig farm, and retired 19 months after the cow was born.

The small herd remained on the farm with a new owner and the cow was sold to another farm in June last year where it calved.

Shortly afterwards the cow, which spent all its life in Dorset, was moved to third farm.

Mr Brown told the Commons that was always foreseen that a few cases of BSE would be confirmed in animals born after 1 August, 1996.

An assessment last year on behalf of BSE advisors SEAC assumed that by the end of 2000, up to 19 cases born after 1 August, 1996 might be identified.

The minister stressed that there was no danger to public health.

The cow – aged 44 months at the time of slaughter – could not enter the food chain under the over thirty months scheme.

Nor would it be eligible for the date-based export scheme because its dam did not survive for at least six months after giving birth without showing signs of the disease.

An investigation by the State Veterinary Service will trace cohort animals born six months either side of the infected cow.

These will be placed under restriction and barred from the food chain.

The infected cows calf has been traced and will be slaughtered.

Meat and Livestock technical director Mike Attenborough said this action showed “regulations brought in to deal with BSE are working, and there is no threat to the consumer”.

The National Farmers Union said BSE figures were plummeting in line with predictions and this one case should be kept in perspective.

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