Four More Cows Culled in Scotland to Test for BSE

Testing is underway to determine if four more cows might be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) on a Scottish farm. ( Multimedia Graphic Network, Inc. )

Scottish government officials have culled four more cows for testing from a farm that had a classical case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a five-year old beef cow.

Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing confirmed that the four cows had been culled to see if the BSE case was more widespread on Boghead Farm in Lumsden.

Carcasses from the cows, including one that was born from the originally affected animal, have been taken to a testing facility in Dumfries. The first case of BSE, also commonly referred to as mad cow disease, was revealed on Oct. 18

“The news is hugely disappointing to have the confirmed case of BSE in Aberdeenshire,” Ewing says. “There is no risk to consumer health. The Scottish government have activated plans to protect food safety and the valuable farming industry.”

Elinor Mitchell, director for agriculture and rural economy at the Scottish Government, expects that the testing results should be available by Friday.

“If any of them prove positive then those carcasses will be transported to the APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) Weybridge offices (in Surrey) for further testing,” Mitchell says.

Following the discovery of BSE on Boghead Farm, the owner Thomas Jackson expressed it was “personally devastating” and “heartbreaking” to go through this with cattle he has raised in a closed herd. Jackson has been fully cooperating with the investigation to determine how the classical case of BSE occurred on his farm.

BSE was first discovered in the United Kingdom in 1986, by 1995 the first recorded human death occurred. After that time a total of 178 people were believed to have died in the U.K. related to BSE. There were an estimated 180,000 cattle infected and it forced the slaughter of 4.4 million cattle total to further eradicate the disease.

Cases of BSE have fallen drastically in the U.K. with 16 occurring since 2011. Prior to the recent case, Scotland had been free of BSE since 2009.

The “classical” or “typical” form of BSE has been shown to be derived from cattle fed contaminated feed. There have been no cattle born in the U.S. to show the “classical” form, but there have been several “atypical” cases including a recent case in Florida discovered in August. Atypical BSE is different than classical BSE, and it generally occurs in older cattle and seems to arise rarely and spontaneously in all cattle populations.

The finding of BSE in Scotland has suspended the country’s “negligible BSE risk status” as determined by World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Scotland is currently the only country globally to have a suspension. The rest of the U.K., besides Northern Ireland, has been recognized as a “controlled BSE risk” zone by OIE. Northern Ireland is a “negligible BSE risk” country.

Other countries with “controlled BSE risk” include Canada, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Ireland, France and Greece.

A map with the BSE risk status zones in Europe can be seen below:

BSE Europe ENG