O’Neill announces end to brucellosis pre-export testing

editorial image

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA has announced the removal of the last hurdle to trade of cattle with regard to brucellosis. From 1 February 2016, pre-export testing will be abolished.

Until now, all breeding cattle aged over 12 months old have been required to have a valid pre-export brucellosis test. This has applied to cattle moving to the south, England, Scotland and Wales, as well as to EU Member States and will no longer be the case.

“Following successful negotiations with other administrations, I am pleased to announce the abolition of the brucellosis pre-export testing requirement from Monday 1 February 2016. This change is in line with the EU Directive that prescribes testing requirements to permit trade in cattle.”

Michelle O’Neill, Agriculture Minister

The minister said: “Following successful negotiations with other administrations, I am pleased to announce the abolition of the brucellosis pre-export testing requirement from Monday 1 February 2016. This change is in line with the EU Directive that prescribes testing requirements to permit trade in cattle.

“I am delighted that we have reached the point where my veterinary officials are content that the programme moves in this direction. Over the last year, we have worked tirelessly to successfully steer the OBF application through Europe and to introduce significant programme changes at the earliest opportunities. As a result we have achieved our aims for the dismantling of the scheme on target. This tremendous news should be welcomed by industry and by all who have worked assiduously on the eradication of brucellosis.”

OBF status was granted on 6 October 2015. It is almost four years since the last confirmed case of brucellosis, and over six years since the south obtained Officially Brucellosis Free (OBF) status. However brucellosis testing must continue for five years after OBF status is granted to ensure continuing disease freedom and to meet trade requirements.

The minister also said: “The benefits of OBF status are now being reaped by farmers. We are in a position where the major savings for industry, taxpayers and DARD through the gradual dismantling of the brucellosis scheme are currently being appreciated.”

Chief veterinary officer (CVO), Robert Huey, recommended the change and pointed out that industry’s ongoing compliance with surveillance measures and biosecurity advice was necessary.

He said: “The ending of pre-export testing to Britain and EU member states is good news for farmers. However, while we are abolishing pre-export testing and have significantly reduced the levels of other 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 devastating disease. Farmers should aim to achieve excellent biosecurity standards and so protect both human and animal health.”