The suspected case of BSE in a Rotbunt dairy cow will, almost certainly, be declared positive next week, according to Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland he said that the cow’s three calves had also been traced. They are currently in isolation and will be slaughtered later today. A full BSE testing procedure will follow.

Coveney would not confirm if the three progeny are still on their farm of birth or had been moved on.

“I am not prepared to discuss this matter, as it has no real bearing on how we deal with the issue at hand”

Coveney did confirm that the Co. Louth farm, which is at the centre of the current scare, has had a previously confirmed case of BSE.

“We know that the cow’s dam was imported from Europe,” he said.

“We are totally focussed on identifying how the animal became infected with the BSE agent. The two most obvious routes are infection from the mother at birth or through the feed offered to the animal as a calf.”

The Minister stressed that Ireland’s compound feed sector rigorously upholds the highest manufacturing standards.

“Meat and bone meal has been prohibited as a compound feed ingredient for the past 14 years,” he said.

“If feed is implicated as the source of the current problem, then it may be remnants from an historic delivery that was inadvertently mixed with a fresh batch back when the potentially infected animal was a calf.

“The farmer in question is co-operating fully with our investigations, part of which will focus on the feed storage bins of the farm.”

Coveney did admit that, in the event of BSE being confirmed, that Ireland would lose its neglible risk status, where the disease is concerned.

“But this should have no impact on our trading relations with the 70 countries around the world that import Irish beef: and this includes China and the United States.