Part of: AFBI Cattle Health Scheme

Area of Expertise:

Neosporosis programmes within AFBI Cattle Health Scheme


Bovine Neosporosis is a disease of worldwide distribution caused by a parasite: Neospora caninum (N.caninum). Neospora is a single celled organism (protozoan) that can invade and live inside animal cells.


Infection in pregnant cattle can cause serious disease and result in abortion. In fact, neosporosis is recognized as one of the major causes of bovine abortion worldwide.

In Northern Ireland, as reflected in the ‘All-island disease surveillance 2014’ report, neosporosis was identified as the cause of abortions on 12.8% of cases submitted to AFBI.

Introduction and spread

Infection occurs through ingestion of oocysts shed in the faeces of dogs, which are the definitive hosts. Dogs may become infected by ingestion of infected bovine placenta, subsequently shedding oocysts.  Infection is also passed directly from the mother to the developing calf before it is born.


It is the most frequently diagnosed cause of abortion in cattle in the UK and it is most commonly seen affecting dairy cows. So, in addition to the abortion there are also losses in regard to milk production.

Control programmes

Accredited free, eradication programme and disease control programme.


On top of general biosecurity rules for herds in any CHeCS licensed schemes, the following apply to herds in the Neospora control programmes:

  1. All dogs should be prevented from having access to the calving areas and any carcass material or placentae. This includes farm dogs, visitors’ dogs, dogs belonging to members of the public and fox hounds.
  2. Placentae, stillborn calves and carcasses should be removed from the calving accommodation/paddocks as soon as possible to a secure location ready for removal by fallen stock contractors. Dogs should be prevented from gaining access to potentially infected material.
  3. Feed storage facilities, both ‘straights’ and forage, must be dog-proof to prevent contamination with dog faeces. They should also be vermin-proof.
  4. Suppliers of feed should provide assurance that measures are in place to prevent contamination of feed by faecal material from dogs.
  5. Access of dogs to pasture used for cattle grazing or for the production of cattle forage should be kept to a minimum because it increases the risk of cattle becoming infected with N. caninum.
  6. Where practical, the public and dogs should not have access to paddocks used for calving.