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Submission Of Live Farm Animals For Postmortem Examination

Sacrifice of a live affected animal for postmortem examination is sometimes the best way to investigate a disease outbreak. In the majority of cases where a live animal is to be sacrificed it should be euthanased on farm and then submitted, as soon as possible, to the nearest Disease Surveillance Centre (DSC).

If a live affected animal is to be euthanased on farm for subsequent postmortem examination a full clinical examination should be carried out and details of the findings should be submitted with the carcase. Before the animal is euthanased a set of blood samples should be collected i.e. heparin, EDTA and serum samples.

However there are a few circumstances where submission of live affected animals is preferred. These include investigation of digestive disease for which histopathology may be required, as shedding of intestinal epithelium will occur within an hour or two of death. Another example would be young pheasants where ill-thrift and/or diarrhoea are to be investigated, as fresh intestinal contents are required for the detection of motile protozoa.

It is essential that the DSC is telephoned in advance to discuss the case and to make arrangements to receive the live animal, to ensure animal welfare is not compromised and to comply with health and safety requirements. In general our DSCs do not have the facilities to handle large animals (over about 50kg) that are to be euthanased so these should be dealt with on farm.

If animals are to be submitted live they must be fit to travel. Consideration should be given to facilities for loading, the journey and facilities for unloading.


In accordance with EU requirements from 1 January 2009 all bovine fallen stock over 48 months of age require to be tested for BSE. From 12 January 2009 cattle owners have a statutory responsibility to organise the removal and subsequent disposal at an approved sampling plant of any animal over 48 months of age.

If cattle over 48 months of age are to be transported to a SAC DSC for postmortem examination the carcase should be accompanied by a movement card from its BCMS passport. The organisation and cost of transport of the carcase to the DSC, together with the movement card, are the responsibility of the owner, as is the cost of the postmortem examination and carcase disposal.

The collector or disposer will enter the carcase details on a new form FSCA2.

Helpline Information

Age queries and notification of unrecoverable carcases can be referred to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) Helpline on 08456 011 367. 

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