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

If you process animal feed, operate a slaughterhouse, or farm ruminant animals, you must follow these rules to reduce the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Why rules are needed

New Zealand is free of the disease BSE, 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.

Find out more about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)

How BSE is spread

BSE can be spread by feeding protein from infected ruminants to other ruminants. New Zealand has rules around ruminant feed to prevent this from happening.

Make sure to check these 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. The regulations define ruminant protein as "protein derived from the tissue (including blood) of a ruminant".

Ruminant protein includes meat, meat meal, bone meal, and blood meal.

What's not ruminant protein

According to the regulations, the following substances are not considered to be ruminant protein:

    • milk, cream, butter, or cheese, or any other product of milk or cream
    • tallow (or any derivative of tallow) – as long as the maximum level of insoluble impurities doesn't exceed 0.15% by weight
    • rennet
    • dicalcium phosphate – as long as it contains no trace of protein or fat
    • peptides with a molecular weight of less than 10,000 daltons
    • amino acids.

Biosecurity (Ruminant Protein) Regulations 1999 – NZ Legislation

The ruminant feed rules

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

Don't feed ruminant protein to ruminants

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 the feed is free of ruminant protein.

Prevent contamination of feed with ruminant protein

Keep all feed for ruminants away from any ruminant protein.

You must:

  • use dedicated equipment for manufacturing 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 (if needed)

Anyone that handles ruminant protein may need to register a ruminant protein control programme (RPCP) with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). This includes feed millers, renderers, feed re-bagging facilities, and animal feed manufacturers.

An RPCP is a plan that shows how you prevent ruminant protein from contaminating ruminant feed.

Find out about ruminant protein control programmes

Use this list to find feed manufacturers that have an RPCP:

Feed manufacturers with a ruminant protein control programme [PDF, 153 KB]

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.

Find out more about labelling animal feed or fertiliser that may contain ruminant protein

Treat facility wastewater before using on farms

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

To treat the wastewater:

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

If floating debris and sediment are removed from wastewater before it enters the treatment plant, you can use the screened sludge on pasture.

Check wastewater used for irrigation has been treated

If crops or pasture have been irrigated with wastewater from slaughterhouses and rendering plants, you must check to make sure that:

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

Only if both these requirements are met can you harvest these crops for ruminants or graze ruminants on this pasture.

Manure and paunch 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. The safest thing to do is 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.

Biosecurity (Ruminant Protein) Regulations 1999

You could be fined up to $5,000 for an individual, or $15,000 for the business if you don't comply with these regulations.

Feeding ruminant protein to other types of animals

Ruminant protein can be added to poultry feed.

For the rules about what you can feed to pigs, see the page:

Feeding food waste to pigs and preventing disease

Who to contact

If you have questions about the ruminant protein rules, email

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

Last reviewed: