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Dairy cow tests positive for BSE

It is the first case of BSE in Ireland since 2013
It is the first case of BSE in Ireland since 2013

THE test results on a dairy cow on a Co Louth farm have proven positive for BSE.

The analysis carried out on the five-year-old rare breed Rotbunt dairy cow at the Pirbright Laboratory in the UK found it was a classic case of BSE, the Irish Independent reports. 

It is the first case of BSE in Ireland since 2013.

The Department of Agriculture confirmed all four progeny of the cow were slaughtered and have tested negative for BSE. All animals – those born and reared on the farm one year either side of the birth date of the positive animal and her progeny – were also excluded from the food chain.

In total there were 67 animals – including the four progeny – slaughtered and all tested negative for BSE.

The Department confirmed it was an “isolated incident” in a single animal.

It pointed out the mother and granddam of the infected dairy cow tested negative for BSE at slaughter. This means they were not the source of transmission.

They also confirmed the importation of the granddam from abroad was of no “significance”.

“No concerns arise regarding the integrity of the commercial feed supply chain or the effectiveness of the feed control systems,” the department stated.

It pointed out test results from feed on the farm were negative for meat and bone meal – which has been banned in Ireland.

“The identification of classical BSE cases after the implementation of the ban on the feeding of meal and bone meal is not unprecedented,” it stated.

Occasionally, atypical cases are discovered which appear to occur sporadically and spontaneously within the cattle population. 

Ireland’s risk for BSE had been changed from ‘controlled’ risk status to ‘negligible’ risk just days before the suspect case was discovered two weeks ago through tests on a five-year-old cow that had died on the farm of Joseph McArdle, near Louth village.

The department has pointed out that Ireland’s status is expected to revert from ‘negligible’ or effectively BSE free to ‘controlled’ risk status.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has already pointed any alteration of Ireland’s status for BSE is “unfortunate” but not a “disaster” for the industry.

EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has pointed out that isolated cases do occur across Europe from time to time.

However, he emphasised they will have no impact on Irish exports “as long as it remains an isolated case”.

“There will always be, from time to time, five or six isolated cases from the EU in relation to BSE but as long as it’s not any more than that, I think the Commission authorities are satisfied,” he said.

Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Eddie Downey said it has not had an impact on the markets for beef. He said consumers can be re-assured about the robustness of the food safety controls in place in Ireland.

John Comer, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), said the €2.2bn international market for Irish beef has been built up over decades. He said it would not be wiped out by a single isolated case.

Earlier this year, Irish beef was back on US menus for the first time in almost 16-years, and processors are hoping to develop a strong market in Asia with the reopening of the Chinese market.

However, the single positive case of BSE is unlikely to have any impact as the deals were made before Ireland’s BSE status has changed to ‘negligible’ or effectively BSE free.

Bord Bia has been in touch with international customers of Irish beef. Chief Executive Aidan Cotter has said that buyers have responded calmly to the recent isolated case, fully aware that such cases may and do reoccur from time to time and across many markets.

He said the markets were confident in the country’s rigorous control regime.

Figures for last year show agri-food exports rose by 4pc last year to a record €10.5bn.