Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE): how to spot and report the disease

Advice on what to do if you suspect there is an outbreak of this infectious disease.

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What happens if you suspect BSE

If one of your animals is showing signs of BSE you must report it immediately by contacting your local Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office.

An APHA vet will visit your farm and carry out a veterinary assessment on the animal as soon as possible.

If the APHA vet suspects your animal has BSE, they will issue a notice restricting the movement of the animal. They will either cull the animal on your premises or transport it to an APHA laboratory for slaughter depending on the animal’s condition.

They will put a herd restriction in place prohibiting the movement of cattle on and off your farm (whole herd restriction) and test your animal to find out if it has BSE.

Once cohort and offspring animals are identified, they will issue notices restricting the movements of these animals and the whole herd restrictions are lifted.

If BSE is suspected in a female cow, the APHA will trace any of its offspring that were born up to two years before or after the mother showed signs of the disease.

They will put movement restrictions in place and they will slaughter the offspring if BSE is confirmed in the mother.


If you suspect signs of any notifiable diseases, you must immediately notify your Scotland: field service local office at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). Failure to do so is an offence. 

This applies to cattle in your possession or under your control at farms, markets, slaughterhouses or other places. You may wish to take advice from your private veterinary surgeon who will contact APHA if they suspect BSE.

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