Brucellosis testing regime is set to be relaxed further

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Northern Ireland’s brucellosis testing programme is to be relaxed, however farmers have been reminded that they must comply with the testing measures and biosecurity.

Making the announcement yesterday, Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) Robert Huey said the move would bring additional significant benefits and savings for farmers and taxpayers.

Mr Huey said that following the attainment of Officially Brucellosis Free (OBF) status by Northern Ireland in October 2015, farmers here are able to benefit from a more relaxed testing programme whereby only 50% of beef herds were required to be tested for the previous two years.

He added: “I am delighted that we have now reached the point where the testing programme can be further relaxed and as such, from 15 January 2018, for each of the next three years, the requirement for testing of beef herds will be reduced to one third. This good news will be welcomed by industry and by all who have worked assiduously on the eradication of brucellosis, and the attainment of OBF status.

“This further change to the testing regime represents a new, more positive, landscape for brucellosis controls. This will bring further savings for industry, taxpayers and DAERA through the further gradual relaxation of the brucellosis scheme as we continue to move forward.”

Relaxing the testing regime for brucellosis will result in financial benefits for farmers, in reduced administration, sampling and testing costs. However, brucellosis testing must continue for another three years, although at a further reduced rate, as a condition of OBF status being granted, to ensure continuing disease freedom.

Mr Huey went on to emphasise that farmers’ continued compliance with the testing measures and biosecurity advice was vital.

He said: “This further change will mean that beef herds will only be routinely tested once over the next three years. However, while we can reduce the levels of routine testing, we must not relax our attitude to the reporting of abortions or any suspicion of brucellosis. It is very important that we continue to stay free of this highly infectious disease. Stakeholder cooperation has been instrumental in getting the programme to this stage, and farmers must keep up their efforts to achieve excellent biosecurity standards and adopt appropriate stock replacement policies.”