Northern Ireland's Minister of Agriculture Edwin Poots has relaxed herd restrictions for herds overdue their TB tests.

The decision comes just over a week after the Minister announced all TB and Brucellosis testing would be suspended with immediate effect.

The decision was made to reduce the risk of Covid-19 to farmers and vets but meant farmers whose TB test became overdue would face herd restrictions, essentially becoming a closed herd.

Closure meant they would be unable to sell animals off their farm except for directly to slaughter.

Today's announcement (April 9), means farmers with herds that are overdue a TB test will not face any restrictions for 35 days, as opposed to seven days.

Outlining the reason for the change, Minister Poots said: “These are worrying times for us all and Covid-19 has, and continues, to force us to consider the ways in which we work, and our current working practices.

“Last week, my department updated the position with regard to TB testing during the pandemic.

In general, TB testing should not take place unless both the vet and the farmer are certain that social distancing can be maintained throughout the test in line with Public Health Agency guidelines.

“I recognise that social distancing can have significant implications for our farming community. I have therefore taken the decision to extend the time at which a herd is placed under restrictions for an overdue herd test.

"With immediate effect, farmers will not automatically have their herd restricted until 35 days after their TB test becomes overdue.

"This will help facilitate those herds that are not currently under a TB restriction to continue to trade as normally as possible during these difficult times.”

A spokesman for the department added that as officials are currently operating in a fast-paced and ever-changing environment, all decisions and current practices will be kept under constant review.