Introduction to Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE)

The following section of our website contains information related to Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (such as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and Scrapie) in Northern Ireland.

If notifiable disease is suspected, contact the DAERA Helpline on 0300 200 7840 or your local DAERA Direct Regional Office. Failure to do so is an offence

What are TSEs?

Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies, (TSEs) are diseases that affect the brain and nervous system and are suffered by a variety of species including humans.

The most common TSE is Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle and classical and atypical in sheep and goats, chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer and Variant Cretzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) in humans.

From 1 March 2013, there is no longer a requirement to BSE test over 72 month healthy cattle slaughtered for human consumption within the EU 25 Member States (Commission Implementing Decision 2013/76/EU refers).  Cattle born in Bulgaria, Romania and any third country would continue to require testing at over 30 months (healthy slaughter) or over 24 months (emergency slaughter or sick at ante mortem).

At 'risk cattle' (ante mortem failures, casualties etc) will remain under the TSE Regulations (NI) 2018 to be tested at over 48 months.

Active surveillance for TSEs in cattle, sheep and goats

European Regulation (EC) 999/2001, as amended, details measures to be taken by MemberStates for the prevention, control and eradication of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) which includes BSE in cattle and Scrapie on sheep and goats. It is enforced in Northern Ireland by the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2018.

Regulation 999/2001 requires that monitoring programmes for BSE in cattle and Scrapie in sheep and goats are carried out as follows:

BSE cattle surveillance

Fallen stock

All cattle aged over 48 months which have died or been killed on farm are required to be tested for BSE. Herdkeepers need to contact the operator of an approved TSE sampling site within 24 hours of the animal's death to make arrangements to have their over 48month fallen bovine collected and disposed of for the purpose of BSE testing.

Emergency slaughter

Cattle over 48 months of age and born on or after 1 August 1996 which are slaughtered on farm due to an accident and certified as being fit for human consumption by a Private Veterinary Practitioner must be tested for BSE. Such animals are eligible for the food chain subject to a negative BSE test result and meeting normal inspection checks.

Ante-mortem inspection

Over 48 month animals presented for slaughter for human consumption at an abattoir, and which fail ante mortem inspection, will automatically qualify for BSE testing due to their age.

Scrapie surveillance in sheep and goats

Human consumption sheep survey

Northern Ireland currently tests a minimum of 600 sheep aged over 18 months slaughtered for human consumption for Scrapie. Sheep must test negative for scrapie and meet normal inspection checks for entry to the food chain.

Sheep fallen stock survey

Northern Ireland is required to randomly test approximately 700 sheep over 18 months of age that have died or are killed on farm for Scrapie.

Goat fallen stock survey

All goats over 18 months of age that have died or are killed on farm must be tested for Scrapie.

Sheep from scrapie monitored flocks or compulsory scrapie flocks

All fallen sheep over 18 months of age from Scrapie Monitored Flocks and flocks restricted under the Compulsory Scrapie Flocks Scheme (CSFS) must be tested for Scrapie. An annual sample of cull sheep (at the end of productive life) which are submitted for human consumption from Compulsory Scrapie Flocks must be tested for scrapie and receive a negative result before entering the food chain.

Arrangements for fallen animals required for BSE and scrapie testing

Producers who have a fallen bovine animal over 48 months of age must, within 24 hours of the animal's death or the animal body coming into their possession, contact the operator of an approved TSE sampling site to make arrangements to have the animal body collected and disposed of for BSE sampling and testing.

The approved TSE sampling sites and contact numbers are:

  • Foyle Proteins - 028 7186 1120
  • Linergy - 028 8775 0050
  • Enviro-Care - 07816 973186

When contacting the approved sampling site producers will be required to identify themselves to the telephone operator by means of their herd number and business identification number.

The operators of approved TSE sampling sites will also, on behalf of the Department, receive notification of fallen sheep over 18 months of age which die or are killed in Scrapie Monitored Flocks and Compulsory Scrapie Flocks Schemes and all fallen goats over 18 months of age in Northern Ireland. Notification should be made to the TSE sampling site within 24 hours of the animal's death who will then arrange the collection and disposal of these animals free of charge for Scrapie sampling and testing.

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