Province on brink of achieving OBF status

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It has been confirmed that Northern Ireland could soon achieve Officially Brucellosis Free (OBF) status.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced that it is three years since DARD last confirmed a case of Brucellosis.

This announcement means that the department can now apply to the EU Commission for OBF status.

Minister O’Neill said: “This is fantastic news for our dairy and beef farmers. The Chief Veterinary Officer will now begin the formal process of applying to the EU Commission for Officially Brucellosis Free (OBF) status and would hope to have this granted later this year.

“That would mean the whole island of Ireland will be recognised as being entirely free from this disease.”

“This announcement is a result of the excellent progress made by the industry and my department to eradicate brucellosis.”

However Minister O’Neill warned: “We must not be complacent and I would remind farmers of the importance of complying with the current testing requirements. It is also vital to continue to report all abortions and any suspicion of the disease so that veterinary service staff can follow up with the necessary investigations.

“We will now start to consult with our industry representatives about our proposals to proportionately and progressively reduce our existing brucellosis control measures, such as routine on-farm testing and pre-movement testing.

“The reduction of existing control measures will deliver significant savings for our livestock farmers when it comes to testing costs and I would urge all cattle farmers to engage fully in this consultation process which will be launched on 6 March 2015,” she added.

Farmers are reminded to consider the health of the cattle population here as a whole, through employing excellent biosecurity on their farms and enquiring about the disease status, past and present, of herds that they are purchasing from.

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson welcomed that Northern Ireland was now in a position to apply to the European Commission for Official Brucellosis Free (OBF) status, saying: “The fact that Northern Ireland is now in a position to apply for OBF status is a welcome development. Brucellosis is a devastating disease which the industry has worked hard to tackle.

“Whilst there have been no confirmed cases in Northern Ireland for three years the nature of the disease means that farmers must continue to maintain their high levels of vigilance. Given that the formal application process can now begin I am hopeful that OBF status will soon be granted to Northern Ireland as this will lessen the burden placed on farmers and the public purse associated with controlling the disease.”

Responding to these developments UFU president Ian Marshall said: “This landmark announcement that there has not been a case of Brucellosis in Northern Ireland for three full years is extremely good news for our industry.

“Farmers and DARD are to be commended for the hard work they have put in to seeing this awful disease eradicated.

“Now DARD can apply to the EU Commission for Official Brucellosis Free (OBF) status and work can begin to look at the further rollback of Brucellosis controls.”

Mr Marshall did however urge farmers to remain vigilant and not drop their guard.