'Mad Cow' Regulation Affects Equine, Rendering Industries

The equine and rendering industries are anticipating a pinch from a new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation intended to prevent the proliferation of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or "mad cow disease").

The regulation on the 1997 legislation prohibits the use of most mammalian proteins in feed for ruminant (cud-chewing) animals. The final rule, which is slated to take effect April 27, specifies that the cattle body parts most at-risk for containing BSE prions, plus entire carcasses of BSE-positive cattle, be excluded from all animal feeds and pet foods. However, there's concern within the horse industry that the stringent collection and processing guidelines could cause rendering companies and haulers to eliminate livestock carcass pickups, including horses.

Tom Cook, president of the National Renderers Association, said it will be an economically driven decision. "Cattle have been the largest portion of pickups. If renderers can't pick up enough volume or it's no longer financially viable, some might discontinue handling livestock altogether," Cook said.

Laura Alvey, FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine deputy director of communications, suggested that those affected by the rule should have found alternative means of disposal during the 12-month implementation process.

"We advise to check with your renderer to find out if there will be any changes as a result of the rule," Alvey said. "If so, check with your state vet for other options."

Other methods of equine carcass disposal can be subject to strict environmental safety regulations, and they might be more costly.

This issue also impacts veterinarians and researchers.

Craig Carter, DVM, MS, PhD, director of the Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center at the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, said he and his colleagues are already putting plans in place as their current providers cease to accept large animal carcasses.

"We (already) have up to 3 million pounds of animal waste going through our lab each year," said Carter. "Sixty percent is currently eliminated through rendering. That's a lot of material to have to dispose of if rendering is no longer an option."

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Lisa Kemp

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