UFU welcomes relaxation to brucellosis pre-movement testing

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union has welcomed DARD’s announcement that brucellosis pre-movement testing will end at the beginning of next week (28 September).

Commenting, UFU deputy president, Ivor Ferguson said: “This is the start of a new landscape for Northern Ireland’s farmers who for over 40 years have complied with strict brucellosis controls. It is encouraging that DARD has acknowledged this change came about thanks to the ongoing work carried out by farmers and vets.”

Ivor McIvor, UFU deputy president

Ivor McIvor, UFU deputy president

“Relaxing the testing regime will result in substantial financial benefits. It is estimated that the current brucellosis eradication programme costs the tax payer around £8 million per year with a further cost in excess of £7 million per year to farmers in compliance costs.

“Financial savings are undoubtedly a benefit of the removal of pre-movement testing, as DARD have highlighted, at its peak this was costing farmers in Northern Ireland at least £2 million annually. However we also welcome the big reduction this will bring in administration and time burdens.”

Today’s announcement follows Northern Ireland’s attainment of Officially Brucellosis Free (OBF) status at the beginning of September.

“This was a highly significant milestone in the history of disease eradication in Northern Ireland. There have been no confirmed cases of brucellosis in Northern Ireland since February 2012; this signifies that the positive work carried out by farmers to date has been worthwhile,” said Mr Ferguson.

“This is the start of a new landscape for Northern Ireland’s farmers who for over 40 years have complied with strict brucellosis controls. It is encouraging that DARD has acknowledged this change came about thanks to the ongoing work carried out by farmers and vets.”

UFU deputy president, Ivor Ferguson

While this is a positive step meaning internal movements no longer require pre-movement tests, the EU Trade Directive requires that a brucellosis surveillance testing programme must continue for five years after OBF status is granted to ensure continuing disease freedom.

“That makes it essential that farmers maintain their efforts to deliver excellent bio-security standards to ensure our high animal health standards are maintained,” warned Mr Ferguson.

He added that eradicating a disease like brucellosis highlights the industry’s willingness to work towards improving animal health and welfare standards.

“It is now up to DARD to ensure they deliver on the promised relaxation of controls as quickly as possible, easing the pressure and frequency of on-farm tests,” said Mr Ferguson.