Buying brains protects industry
The Bucks for Brains initiative provides generous incentive payments for livestock owners who submit eligible sheep and cattle brains for testing.
This ongoing testing helps Australia maintain market access for its livestock industries.
Bucks for Brains is an initiative of the National Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Surveillance Project (NTSESP), which is tasked with confirming Australia’s proof of freedom from rare fatal brain and other central nervous system diseases called TSEs.
The damaging effects that TSEs can have on a country's livestock industry and economy were made apparent during the outbreak of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease, in the United Kingdom, and following its detection in Canada and the United States.
BSE is a disease that emerged in the 1980s through the feeding of meat meal contaminated with an infectious agent known as a prion.
The disease causes an untreatable, progressive, degenerative condition of the brain leading to a range of neurological signs — therefore gaining the name, mad cow disease.
With cases in the UK and several European countries, plus the prior export of meat meal from Europe to other countries, it is not clear how far the disease may have spread.
In Australia, we are in the fortunate position of being considered one of the least likely countries in the world to have BSE.
To firmly claim our livestock are free of BSE, we are required to have a surveillance system to demonstrate that declaration.
The surveillance program is based on the post-mortem examination of sheep over 18 months of age and cattle over 30 months that show neurological signs, to demonstrate and confirm they do not have BSE and to show explanation of their symptoms.
An incentive of $100 for sheep and $300 for cattle is available to livestock owners to help ensure we continue to demonstrate our freedom. In addition, all laboratory investigations and costs are covered as part of the scheme.
For further information, contact your local veterinarian or Agriculture Victoria veterinary or animal health officer, or in NSW your Local Land Service.
Dr Jeff Cave
Senior Veterinary Officer