Views sought on testing

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Officially Brucellosis Free status will bring huge benefits and savings for our farmers, Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has claimed.

Now that the application to the EU Commission for recognition of Officially Brucellosis Free (OBF) status is being progressed, the Minister has launched a public consultation seeking views on how the brucellosis testing regime should be relaxed.

She said: “Achieving OBF status will be good news for our cattle industry. We can now start to consider substantial reductions to our Brucellosis Eradication Programme, which is currently estimated to cost some £8 million per year to taxpayers and £7million per year in compliance costs to farmers. While we expect the formal OBF approval process to take some months, now is the perfect time to seek views on what our new testing regime should look like.”

Relaxing the testing regime for brucellosis will therefore result in substantial savings for both livestock farmers and taxpayers in reduced administration and sampling costs. However a reduced brucellosis testing regime must continue for five years after OBF status is granted to ensure continuing disease freedom.

The Minister said: “I would urge cattle farmers and industry representatives to fully engage in this important consultation as we review how to proportionately and progressively reduce control measures, including routine on-farm testing and pre-movement testing with their attendant costs.

“I therefore urge everyone to submit their replies before the closing date of 17 April 2015,” she added.

DARD’s Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), Robert Huey stressed the importance of farmers complying with the existing testing measures saying: “While we start to look at how we can reduce the levels of testing we must not relax our attitude to animal health or in reporting all abortions or any suspicion of Brucellosis. It is vital that we continue to stay free of this highly infectious disease.”

The CVO stressed that reporting of a bovine abortion does not mean that the dam’s herd is restricted. Only the animal that has aborted, delivered a stillbirth, or had a calf that has died within 24 hours of birth, will be blood tested for Brucellosis.

Mr Huey added: “Farmers must keep up their efforts to achieve excellent biosecurity standards and ask about the disease status, past and present, of herds that they are buying from, whether from here or from elsewhere.”

The closing date for the consultation is 17 April 2015. You can access the document here www.dardni.gov.uk/index/consultations.htm