Solution found for GB sales - Shand

A ‘workable solution’ has been found to resolve the difficulties facing Northern Ireland breeders who wish to sell pedigree livestock at sales in Great Britain.

Since the Northern Ireland protocol came into force on 1st of January 2021, Northern Ireland’s pedigree cattle breeders have had both their access to GB markets, and full participation within activities of UK herd books, severely restricted.

The detrimental effect on genetic movement and financial income for Northern Irish farms that rely heavily on this trade have been devastating to cattle breeders. 

Towards the end of 2021, a DAERA announcement suggested a solution to these issues had been found.

Reports suggested that Northern Irish breeders would be allocated segregated space in GB markets, meaning cattle would have to be stalled, shown and sold in different areas from their UK herd book counterparts.

Cattle would then be allowed to return back to NI at the end of the event. This option was deemed completely unrealistic and unworkable for livestock markets and discriminatory towards breeders from Northern Ireland.

For the past twelve months, a task and finish group led by the National Beef Association CEO, Neil Shand, has worked to find a post-Brexit solution acceptable to all parties.  Significantly, members of the group believe a workable solution has now been found.

Commenting on the proposal, Neil Shand said: “After a huge amount of work, supported by both Defra and DAERA, we believe we have found a workable solution.

“This would allow Northern Irish breeders to attend sales in GB, and return home to Northern Ireland with their cattle post event if necessary.

“The solution is not simple, but it is the best compromise we can find to directly fix an issue unintentionally generated by Brexit and the Northern Ireland protocol.”

According to Shand, this will require UK markets to run under an Export Assembly Centre licence.

All cattle entering the market must be of similar health status, and therefore all animals from all geographical areas including TB4 areas of England and Scotland must have undergone a TB test 30 days or less prior to the event.

Breed Society support for this proposal has been forthcoming this week, and members of the task and finihsh group hope this will encourage markets to hold Export Assembly Centre sales in the near future.

Shand continued: “I understand the solution is not perfect, but I feel it is vitally important that we continue to fully incorporate Northern Irish pedigree breeders into mainland GB events.

“Ensuring that we retain access to Northern Irish elite genetics along with their contemporaries in the UK herd books can only benefit development of our industry and our cattle - it’s imperative that the elite genetics can flow freely and both directions.”

He concluded: “It is important that all breeders understand that this is a consequence of Brexit. The debate on the solution is not centred around TB testing: testing, which will allow Export Assembly Centre sales, is part of the solution.  

“The support and effort from both DAERA and Defra during this process has been commendable, and everyone involved has worked hard to find a solution.”