UFU supports proportionate relaxation of Brucellosis Testing Regime

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union has submitted a response to DARD’s consultation on proposals for a revised Brucellosis Testing Regime should Northern Ireland obtain Officially Brucellosis Free (OBF) status in 2015.

Ulster Farmers’ Union Deputy President Ivor Ferguson said that after carefully considering each of the four options they are supporting the proposal that DARD implement proportionate relaxations with separate arrangements for beef and dairy herds on the basis of risk assessment.

He added: “Option three (the option also preferred by DARD) offers the best balance between addressing the level of risk of an outbreak remaining undetected and achieving a proportionate saving to both farmers and taxpayers.”

“Brucellosis is a highly contagious disease and early detection of the disease is vital in identifying animals suspected of being infected. The disease can have a long incubation period, and infected animals may not show any symptoms of brucellosis until an animal calves or aborts. If an abortion is unreported there remains a risk that the infection could lead to a significant spread which could affect our OBF status.

“Therefore, it is vital, that even on attainment of OBF status that DARD’s surveillance regime is risk-based, proportionate and that tests are carried out effectively so that any potential infection is detected as early as possible.

“We also agree that the removal of pre-movement testing controls should be considered as soon as the necessary legislative change is made to the Brucellosis Control Order (NI) 2004. This in effect would allow for the relaxation of pre-movement testing in advance of us attaining OBF status and would also provide a proportionate saving to both farmers and taxpayers. Finally, we agree that DARD should proceed to extend biennial testing to all beef herds in advance of NI attaining OBF status. Currently, animals over 12 months of age in most dairy herds are tested biennially, whilst animals in beef herds are tested annually.”

Mr Ferguson concluded: “Farmers and DARD have worked hard over the last three years to ensure this disease is kept at bay so a further roll back of brucellosis controls will be very much welcomed. This consultation was a perfect opportunity for us to feed in what relaxations should be made to the Brucellosis Testing Regime in Northern Ireland, as we await approval from the EU Commission for OBF status.”