BSE investigation to involve assessment of feed, says Coveney

Ireland ‘probably knows more about our bovine herd than we do about our people’

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A search for the source of BSE, which is thought to have killed a cow on a farm in county Louth, will involve assessing the feed given to the herd and checking the ancestry of the cow’s mother, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said.

Speaking at an animal welfare conference in Farmleigh in Dublin on Friday morning, Mr Coveney said his department was “already making good progress on the investigation” into how the cow might have caught the disease.

“We need to work with the farmer and understand how this could have happened. Obviously, historically the cause of BSE predominantly is feed but we haven’t been feeding any meat and bone meal in Ireland for more than 14 years”.

Mr Coveney said the investigation was considering “whether there is a connection with this animal’s mother, for example, who happened to be imported from abroad” .

While he said he was not sure of the relevance of this aspect, the investigation will “will look at all possibilities and eventualities”.

He said Ireland “probably knows more about our bovine herd than we do about our people” and there was a “very, very detailed, credible system” in place for monitoring animals.

Irish farms were “probably better monitored than anywhere in the world in terms of understanding animals, who owns them, where they are and what age they are and their lifetimes and so on”.

He said it was because of that system that if any animal dies over 48 months of age it would be tested for BSE, forming a net that would catch any “stragglers or outliers as is the case here”.

He said Ireland had an isolated case two years ago and they happen all over Europe.

“When you are moving away from having a BSE problem and when you are consigning it to history, as Ireland is, there may be the isolated case”.

Mr Coveney said there had been more than seven million tests for BSE since 2002 and more than 100,000 on animals who died on farms last year alone.

“So we take an ultra precautionary approach, we test everything and we test again and again and again. Sometimes when you have a system like that you will pick up an isolated case, an outlier, and that is what has happened here.”

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