Foetal bovine serum collection


Ratification Date: 01 Jan 2006


Foetal bovine serum is of great value for diagnostic and research purposes. The collection of foetal blood at licensed abattoirs is supported, provided that the welfare of the foetus is safeguarded by ensuring that the foetus is unconscious at the time of collection.

On-farm blood collection from perinatal calves is not endorsed, because this poses significant welfare risks.


Whole animal blood and blood products are collected from livestock, including horses and perinatal calves, for a wide range of research and diagnostic purposes. In particular, foetal bovine serum (FBS) is a highly valued byproduct, which is collected at many abattoirs throughout Australia.


The welfare of calves during slaughter of pregnant animals should be safeguarded.

  • If uterine, placental or foetal tissues, including foetal blood, are not to be collected as part of the post-slaughter processing of pregnant animals, the foetus should be left inside the unopened uterus.
  • When uterine, placental or foetal tissues (not foetal blood) are to be collected, the foetus should not be removed from the uterus until at least 15–20 minutes after the cow is slaughtered.
  • When foetal blood is to be collected, the foetus should not be removed from the uterus until at least 5 minutes after the cow is slaughtered. At this stage, the foetus should be unconscious. A foetal heartbeat will usually still be present and foetal movements may occur. These are only a cause for concern if the exposed foetus begins to breathe air.
  • If a live mature foetus is removed from the uterus, it should be prevented from breathing air and inflating its lungs — for example, by clamping the trachea.
  • If there is any doubt about consciousness of the foetus, it should be killed with a captive bolt or a blow to the head with a suitable blunt instrument.

In normal abattoir procedures, a foetus is not removed from the uterus until 20–35 minutes after the slaughter of the cow. Therefore, commercial practice currently meets these guidelines.

Foetal rescue

The above requirements do not refer to foetal rescue, the practice of attempting to revive a foetus found alive at evisceration of the dam. This should not be attempted during normal commercial slaughter as it may lead to serious welfare complications in the newborn animal. These include impaired brain function resulting from oxygen shortage before rescue is completed, compromised breathing and body heat production because of foetal immaturity, and an increased incidence of infections due to a lack of colostrum.

Date of ratification by AVA Board 1 January 2006