Now that Northern Ireland has achieved brucellosis-free status, it provides the basis for Minister Coveney to remove the pre-movement test from animals over 24 months of age, the IFA has said.

Brucellosis is a highly contagious disease of cattle that is characterised by abortions in cattle and can be transferred to humans with serious consequences for human health.

The IFA Animal Health Chairman Bert Stewart said the Northern Ireland announcement means the island of Ireland is now recognised officially as free from Brucellosis.

Stewart said he expects the Minister to move quickly on this based on the commitments given to IFA earlier this year.

“Brucellosis has imposed severe costs and hardship on individual farmers and the Minister must now remove the last direct cost burden on farmers as soon as possible,” he said.

The Animal Health Chairman said the discontinuation of the pre-movement test for breeding animals over 24 months of age will represent the removal of the last farmer testing requirement for brucellosis.

When combined with the cessation of herd testing, this will be worth €6m in savings annually to farmers, the IFA said.

Furthermore, he said the discontinuation of this test allows farmers to consider mart sales for female beef animals without the prohibitive costs previously associated with their sale.

This will provide a viable alternative outlet and improve competition, he said.

Northern Ireland obtains Official Brucellosis Free status

The North’s agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill recently confirmed that the European Comission had given the North Official Brucellosis Free (OBF) status.

O’Neill said that a controlled reduction of the programme would be introduced as soon as possible after official publication of the Commission decision.

“Attainment of OBF status for cattle is a highly significant milestone in the history of disease eradication here.

“For the first time in decades, not only is the North free of brucellosis, but the whole island of Ireland may now be regarded as being free from this devastating disease,” she said.