There will be no more annual brucellosis tests, under new changes to the national brucellosis control measures announced by the Minster for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

The Minister has announced that he has decided on substantial changes to the national Brucellosis control regime for 2015 and onwards which is likely to bring an end to routine on-farm brucellosis testing during 2015 and will effect significant savings for livestock farmers in testing costs.

“Having complied fully with EU requirements for mandatory levels of testing for a period following achievement of Officially Brucellosis Free status in 2009, which has now come to an end, we now have greater freedom to put in place arrangements which best meet the needs of our situation.

“Against a background where there has been no Brucellosis outbreak in the national herd since 2006 and none in Northern Ireland since 2012, it is now appropriate to scale back further on the scale of testing for the disease in 2015 and onwards.”

The Minister stated that he has decided that the annual round test, under which some 600,000 animals have been tested annually in recent years, will no longer be carried out in 2015. In addition, the milk elisa test will be discontinued from January 1,2015.

The Minister also indicated his intention to remove, during the course of 2015, the remaining pre-movement testing requirement which apply to older animals. The precise timing of removal of movement controls will be dependent on progress in Northern Ireland in achieving Officially Bovine Free status so that this step is taken in a context where the entire island has been recognised by the EU as being entirely free from the disease.

The disease will continue to be compulsorily notifiable and the Department will continue with appropriate monitoring measures, such as testing blood samples from culled cows at slaughter plants. Farmers should continue to submit aborted foetuses to the regional laboratories of the Department for testing in order to ensure the early detection of any outbreak of this disease, he said.

“These welcome developments are the product of efforts put in jointly by my Department, the veterinary profession and by the farming community over many years in addressing this highly contagious and costly disease and are a vindication of the disease management strategies followed in more recent years to close out remaining problem areas. I am very pleased that significant savings in testing costs, amounting to an estimated €6m in a full year, will accrue to livestock farmers as a result of these changes.”

IFA Animal Health chairman Bert Stewart said the announcement represents direct savings of in excess of €6m annually for farmers.