The Ulster Farmers’ Union has described as ‘positive progress’ an announcement from the Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill that Brucellosis controls are to be relaxed ahead of schedule.
From this Monday owners of beef herds will only have to test cattle every two years.
This is part of the drive for Northern Ireland to secure Officially Brucellosis Free (OBF) status. The relaxation of controls reflects efforts by farmers and DARD officials to tackle a disease that in the past was a major economic burden to livestock production.
UFU president Ian Marshall said there have been no confirmed cases of Brucellosis in Northern Ireland since February 2012.
He added: “We commend all the positive work carried out by farmers so far and hope to obtain OBF status in the near future.”
The UFU says it is pleased that the minister is to extend testing intervals so that beef herds are tested every two years rather than annually as they currently are. This decision was made in advance of attaining OBF status. Currently, animals over 12 months of age in most dairy herds are tested every two years but supplemented by monthly milk testing.
Mr Marshall said, the relaxation of beef herd testing in advance of securing OBF status will bring savings to farmers and taxpayers. The UFU is now encouraging Michelle O’Neill to continue working with the European Commission to ensure Northern Ireland is awarded OBF status as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, chairman of the Stormont Agriculture Committee William Irwin MLA has welcomed the update on the progress made in moving towards Brucellosis free status.
He stated: “It is very encouraging to hear that we are well on track to achieve Brucellosis Free status and after a considerable period of no incidences of the disease and with the various bench marks being reached, it will be positive to finally have Brucellosis free status here in Northern Ireland.
“This will also bring with it the added benefit of the removal of pre-movement testing which has been a considerable cost to the industry over many years. I know that farmers will certainly welcome this aspect of the status given the inconvenience of the requirement for pre movement testing prior to moving animals to marts. Officials confirmed that the pre-movement testing will come to an end this September which is very welcome news.
“Disease control remains a very crucial issue and it is absolutely imperative that our industry maintains these very high standards.
“Our produce in Northern Ireland is of the highest quality and the achievement of Brucellosis Free Status will be a positive boost to the industry.”