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Stackyard News Nov 07

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Farmers Offered Financial Help to Investigate Causes of Cattle Abortions 14/11/07

The cost of the safe disposal of the carcase of an aborted calf will be waived by SAC Veterinary Services when a blood sample from the affected cow is submitted along with the foetus to one of its eight diagnostic laboratories.


beef shorthorns

This initiative was agreed with the Scottish Government to promote the investigation of causes of abortion in cattle herds. Thus the charge for all tests on the foetus, placenta and maternal blood sample is capped at £49 (plus VAT).

The cost of a single abortion in a dairy herd is estimated at over £650. In a beef suckler herd, the cost of between £200 and £300, can be doubled or trebled for valuable pedigree stock. SAC advises that all bovine abortions are fully investigated so the appropriate action can be taken to prevent serious economic loss to the herd.


  1. The investigation of bovine abortion outbreaks is now the principal means of monitoring beef suckler herds for brucellosis. In April routine blood testing for Brucellosis, a cause of abortion in cattle was withdrawn by the British Government. A wide range of disease agents may cause cattle to abort. These include BVD, salmonella, Neospora, Leptospira hardjo, IBR virus, Campylobacter, Bacillus species and some fungi. Diagnosis requires laboratory examination.
  2. In the event of a cow aborting in a beef or dairy herd the owner must inform his local Animal Health Office. Normally the local veterinary surgeon will visit suckler herds to collect samples from the affected cow. These samples will be used to screen for evidence of Brucellosis (a notifiable disease). This visit and examination is paid for by the Government.
  3. The cause of the abortion may pose a risk to human health. Therefore when an abortion occurs in a cattle herd the foetus and much of the afterbirth as possible should be gathered into a stout plastic sack or other receptacle. Use disposable gloves to handle abortion material. The SAC Veterinary Services laboratory will dispose of this material free of charge as part of the abortion investigation.
  4. The charge of £49 (plus VAT) covers the charge made to the farmer's veterinary surgeon for all the laboratory tests undertaken on the foetus, placenta and blood sample of the affected cow. The farmer's veterinary surgeon may add a fee for his professional advice and other services.

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