New EU regulations on animal health and TB testing, which were due to come into effect from next Wednesday (April 21), will not be implemented straight away, Agriland understands.

The regulations, which first came to public attention in late 2019, would see TB tests be required for animals within 30 days of being sold if more than six months has passed since the last herd test.

When the draft regulations first came to light, farm organisations expressed concerns over the extra labour and cost burden such requirements will place on farmers.

However, at a recent meeting of the Implementation Working Group for the TB Eradication Strategy (part of the TB Stakeholders Forum) it emerged that the regulations will not be implemented straight away from April 21.

Sources have indicated that it will be the third quarter of this year “or later” before the rules are put into practice.

Furthermore, Agriland understands that farm organisation members of the TB Forum and the Implementation Working Group are pushing for the date of the eventual onset of the rules to be pushed back further than that.

Even when the regulation is implemented, it appears that it will happen on a “staggered” basis, with the new testing regime to be applied in the first instance to herds with a perceived higher risk of TB.

It is understood that last year’s TB Herd Risk Statements – the letters to farmers that drew the ire of the farm organisations – will be the basis for this.

Apparently, farmers that were given risk categories of ‘C0’ to ‘C3’ will be the first to have to adhere to these rules when they are eventually implemented.

Using these categories might run into another problem, however.

Some farm organisations – having always contended that the risk letters were a “solo run” by the Department of Agriculture and that the letters didn’t have the backing of the forum – are refusing to recognize the letters themselves or the categories as official.

There is also debate around new herd numbers (i.e. new-entrant farmers with newly-established herds), with some arguing that they should be exempt from the new regulations.

Paying for excess TB testing

Despite the onset of the regulations being pushed back, it appears the debate is already underway as to who will pay for it.

The farm organisations are adamant that the department should cover the cost of any excess TB testing to be carried out in line with the regulations.

Sources have indicated that, while there were some signs of leeway from the department on this demand initially, its position has hardened in recent meetings.

A meeting of the TB Forum’s Finance Working Group is due to take place in the coming weeks, where this issue is sure to be discussed.