Pre-export testing for brucellosis in Northern Ireland will be abolished from February 1, 2016, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has confirmed.

Northern Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture Michelle O’Neill said that cattle over 12 months of age will no longer require brucellosis testing prior to export to the Republic of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, as well as to EU Member States.

“Following successful negotiations with other administrations, I am pleased to announce the abolition of the brucellosis pre-export testing requirement.

“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.

O’Neill said that over the last year the Department in Northern Ireland worked tirelessly to successfully steer the OBF (Official Brucellosis) application through Europe.

“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,” she said.

O’Neill also said that Northern Ireland was first granted OBF status on October 6, 2015, but brucellosis testing must continue for five years to ensure continuing disease freedom and to meet trade requirements.

“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.”

Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Robert Huey, recommended the change and pointed out that industry’s ongoing compliance with surveillance measures and bio-security advice was necessary.

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 bio-security standards and so protect both human and animal health,” he said.