Reduction in testing welcomed

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The relaxation of brucellosis testing in Northern Ireland has been welcomed by industry representatives.

The move to reduce the testing to one third was announced earlier this week by Chief Veterinary Officer Robert Huey.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says the announcement it is good news for farmers as it will help to reduce the financial and administrative burden associated with this disease.

UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, said: “Obtaining Officially Brucellosis Free (OBF) status was a momentous achievement for both farmers and DAERA. There have been no confirmed cases of Brucellosis in Northern Ireland since February 2012 and the further relaxation of brucellosis control measures signifies that the positive work carried out by farmers to date has been worthwhile.”

Mr Chestnutt added that while the testing programme has been relaxed, farmers must not become relaxed in their attitude towards the disease.

“If we want to stay free of this disease, we must continue to report abortions or any suspicion of brucellosis to DAERA and continue to apply a good level of bio-security on farms at all times,” he added.

The reduction in testing has also been welcomed by the The Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC).

LMC’s Industry Development Manager, Colin Smith claims it is testament to the hard work of the industry and will go towards reducing costs faced by local farmers.

Mr Smith said: “LMC welcomes the news that Brucellosis testing is to be relaxed further. The industry has worked closely with DAERA for a number of years to eradicate the disease from the Northern Ireland cattle population and now we are seeing the benefits.

“The relaxation of testing will reduce costs to farmers and any steps which are taken to do this are welcomed. Industry should continue to implement high standards of biosecurity, robust surveillance activities and most importantly report all cattle abortions, stillbirths and calves that have died within 24 hours of birth,” he added.

Ulster Unionist MEP, Jim Nicholson said the decision certainly has to be welcomed and will certainly provide a further degree of flexibility to farmers and the industry as a whole.

He added: “From October 2015, when Northern Ireland was officially given the status of Officially Brucellosis-free, there have been efforts to ease the burden of Brucellosis testing, and thankfully we have come to this current position.

“As such, from January 15, the Department will again relax the testing regime meaning that for each of the next three years, the requirement for testing of beef herds will be reduced to one third.

“This will inevitably result in farmers having to spend less time on related administration, and less money will be spent on sampling and the associated costs of that. Likewise, DAERA and the taxpayer will see savings.

“Whilst, I agree that there cannot be an abrupt total cessation of Brucellosis testing, the relaxation of the current testing regime can only be seen as a positive move, which farmers and the industry will hopefully benefit from.”

Mr Nicholson added: “I must congratulate DAERA on this decision and the key stakeholders who have played a vital role in obtaining Officially Brucellosis free status in Northern Ireland. And with continued monitoring, I am hopeful this will remain the case with further relaxations of the testing regime introduced in the future.”