Temporary measures to stop herds overdue their TB test because of Covid-19 disruption from being closed up are set to end at the start of December.

Herds overdue their test will be automatically restricted seven days after a test becomes overdue, as was the case before the Covid-19 pandemic, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots announced.

The measures will come into effect from Tuesday, December 1, 2020, and mean affected herds will not be able to move animals to livestock markets or to other herds.

The restrictions will also be applied to herds with tests overdue by more than seven days and less than 35 days on this date.

In addition, from Tuesday, January 5, 2021, rules preventing herds with overdue tests from moving cattle into the herd or to slaughterhouses will also be reinstated.

These restrictions apply when a herd test is 37 days overdue and will also be applied to all herds where that test is already overdue by more than 37 days on that date.

Minister Poots said: “It is essential that herd tests are carried out within the prescribed timeframes, both for the control of the disease and to ensure that the Northern Ireland TB Programme remains compliant with legislative requirements.

Our TB Programme facilitates access to export markets by our export-dependent livestock and livestock product sectors. This trade is worth £1.7 billion to the beef and dairy industry each year.

“From the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, my department and I implemented a number of changes to safeguard the health and wellbeing of farmers, veterinary practitioners and staff and I gave a commitment to keep them under review.

“In May, I relaxed testing requirements for calves under 180 days old where such tests can’t be carried out safely and in line with current PHA guidance on social distancing measures.

"As that measure helped TB testing levels to return quickly to near-normal levels, we can now resume usual arrangements relating to overdue TB tests. To enable farmers to plan for this change, I have agreed to implement this measure in two stages.”