Ruminant feed regulations for preventing BSE or 'mad cow disease'

If bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or 'mad cow disease' got into New Zealand, it would severely affect our economy. If you process animal feed, operate a slaughterhouse, or farm ruminant animals, you must follow these rules to reduce risk.

Why rules are needed

New Zealand is free of the disease BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), also called 'mad cow disease'.

If BSE got into New Zealand, it would have a severe impact on our economy. BSE would change our international trade status, potentially costing billions of dollars in lost exports, and affect many farmers' livelihoods.

How it's spread

BSE can be spread by feeding ruminants protein that has come from infected ruminants. New Zealand has rules around ruminant feed to prevent this from happening. Make sure to check the rules if you:

  • make, process, or handle animal feed
  • operate a slaughterhouse
  • farm or feed ruminants.

What is ruminant protein?

Ruminants include cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats and deer. Ruminant protein is protein from these animals and includes meat, meat meal, bone meal and blood meal – but doesn't include milk and milk products. Ruminant protein can be added to poultry and pig feed, because they aren't ruminants.

The ruminant feed rules

The rules cover importing, making, labelling, storing and using feed for ruminants.

Don't feed ruminants ruminant protein

You must not:

  • give feed containing ruminant protein to any ruminant animal
  • buy, import, or make feed for ruminants that contains ruminant protein.

Whenever you feed ruminants, check the label first to make sure it's free of ruminant protein.

Prevent contamination of feed with ruminant protein

Keep ruminant feed away from any ruminant protein.

You must:

  • use dedicated equipment for producing ruminant feed
  • store ruminant feed away from sources of contamination
  • make sure you don't add ruminant protein to silage.

Register a ruminant protein control programme

Millers, renderers, feed re-bagging facilities, animal feed manufacturers, and anyone that handles ruminant protein may need to register a ruminant protein control programme (RPCP) with MPI. An RPCP is a plan that shows how you prevent ruminant protein from contaminating ruminant feed.

Label feed and fertilisers correctly

Producers, retailers and distributors must make sure that feed and fertiliser containing (or that could contain) ruminant protein has a label with this wording:

"Notice: Do not feed to sheep, cattle, deer, goats, buffaloes, or other ruminant animals. This product contains or may contain ruminant protein."

There are rules around the size and location of the label on the feed packaging (or documentation).

Treat facility waste before using on farms

Wastewater from slaughterhouses and rendering facilities could contain ruminant protein. If you operate one of these facilities, you must treat facility wastewater before you dispose of it on farms that have ruminants.

To treat the wastewater:

  1. remove floating material
  2. remove sediment
  3. screen it in your wastewater treatment plant (until it is clean enough to spray irrigate without blocking the holes).

Sludge from wastewater treatment plants

As long as floating debris and settled solids are removed from wastewater before it enters the treatment plant, you can use the sludge from screening on pasture.

Farmers to check wastewater has been treated

Farmers can harvest crops for ruminants, or graze ruminants on land that has been irrigated with wastewater from slaughterhouses and rendering plants, if they first check:

  • the water was treated to the required standard
  • there isn't any visible wastewater or debris on the crop or pasture.

Manure and gut contents can be used on pasture

Farmers can graze ruminants on land where paunch (first stomach) contents and manure have been applied, as long as there aren't any strips of intestine or ruminant protein. Ideally, compost the paunch material first.

If you don't follow the rules

The Biosecurity (Ruminant Protein) Regulations 1999 set out the rules around ruminant protein to prevent the risk of BSE.

You could be fined up to $5,000 for individuals and $15,000 for corporations if you don't comply with these regulations.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about the ruminant protein rules:

If you notice unusual symptoms in your animals, report them to your vet or MPI's pest-and-disease hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

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