NORTHERN IRELAND – Northern Ireland can now officially apply for Brucellosis free status, potentially saving the country £15 million in cattle testing annually.
Savings calculations are for pre-movement and annual testing, with farmers set to save £7 million and taxpayers £8 million after application for Officially Brucellosis Free (OBF) status to the European Union.
The government is hopeful of being granted the status later this year.
Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill, hailed this as “fantastic news” for beef and dairy farmers, although she warned against complacency.
“I would remind farmers of the importance of complying with the current testing requirements,” said Minister O’Neill. “It is also vital to continue to report all abortions and any suspicion of the disease so that Veterinary Service staff can follow up with the necessary investigations.”
She invited farmers to engage in a consultation process, to be launched on Friday, on testing procedures and savings.
Northern Ireland became eligible for OFB status at midnight on Saturday 28 February, three years after the last confirmed outbreak.
European Union requirements also stipulate five consecutive years of having 99.8 per cent of the herd brucellosis-free.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) said the news shows what veterinarians can achieve and reiterated the government’s message of complacency.
“While we congratulate our colleagues in Northern Ireland, they would also be the first to recognise that this is not a time to be complacent and there is a need to continue surveillance to maintain disease freedom,” said association President, John Blackwell.
Veterinarians are “cautiously optimistic” that OBF will granted to Northern Ireland, said Simon Dohery of the BVA Northern Ireland branch.
He said: “It will significantly reduce costs for cattle farmers. However, while we are right to be pleased about this recent news, we also know that there is still some way to go before we achieve OBF status and that we need to continue to ensure compliance with current testing requirements.
“Looking positively to the future, BVA and BVA Northern Ireland Branch will contribute to the proposed department consultation on reducing brucellosis control measures in Northern Ireland.”
Find out more information on Brucellosis by clicking here.
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