Introduction to importing animals and animal products

Imports of live animals and products of animal origin are controlled to prevent the import of disease into Northern Ireland. These pages give information on how the animal health import controls work.

Imports of animals from Great Britain

Why do we have import controls?

There are controls on bringing livestock into Northern Ireland to try to protect the health of the animals already in the province, and also the health of people, because some animal diseases can be passed from animals to humans.

DARD uses legislation to control imports, and the main tools that it uses for imports from GB are import licences. These licences state what conditions must be met so that animals can be imported, and you must comply with all of them. There are two types of licence:

General licences

These are not specific to individual importers and remain continuously valid until revoked due to, for example a disease outbreak and can be used for multiple consignments. There is no requirement to apply in writing.

Specific licences

These are issued to a particular importer for a particular consignment. The usually remain valid for 21 days but can only be used for a single consignment.  The importer must apply in writing for a licence prior to importing the animals.

You need to think carefully before importing – importing animals can also import disease!

What diseases are we worried about?

We are concerned about diseases on three different levels:

  • preventing the introduction of major exotic diseases, like foot and mouth disease, Avian Influenza, Classical Swine Fever and bluetongue
  • preventing the introduction of other diseases which are not present in Northern Ireland such as Maedi Visna
  • preventing the further spread of common diseases, like Bovine Brucellosis, Bovine Tuberculosis, Scrapie and ringworm

What types of animals are covered here?

  • breeding animals means animals brought in for breeding purposes, e.g. dairy heifers, bulls, ewes
  • production animals to be kept for further fattening before slaughter, e.g. stores (bullocks, beef heifers)
  • direct Slaughter animals which are those licensed to move directly to slaughter plants
  • ornamental Fowl attending shows in Northern Ireland

Livestock imports

What do I need to do to import cattle sheep, goats, and pigs?

Following the end of the EU Exit transition period new rules apply for 1 January 2021.  You can find detailed guidance on importing here.

What papers do I need?

The best way to remember is to think “S – A – L – E”

S - supplementary certificate - get a blank copy when you apply for your import licence, and send it to the vet in Great Britain for them to complete

A - animal transport certificate – to cover the welfare of the animals when they are on their journey

L - licence to import cattle – this will be a specific import licence, made out in your name, and covering only the number of cattle that you want to import. It will only be valid for 21 days

E - export health certificate – signed by the vet in GB to make sure that the animals are healthy 

For more specific information, please use the links below:

Importing from the EU

Contact Trade Section (028) 77442 096 or e-mail

Importing from non-EU countries

Animals and animal products from countries outside the EU must be imported via an approved Border Inspection Posts (BIPs), where they undergo veterinary checks before they are allowed to enter the EU.

Products and live animals generally can only be imported from countries which are on the approved third country import list for that product or animal species. Products of animal origin (POAO) usually must be from establishments approved to export to the EU. Details of approved establishments for products are available on the European Commission’s website. Some finished products, for example leather and dried pasta,are exempt from these controls.

Importer Information Notes - import requirements from DEFRA

More useful links

Imports into the EU are recorded by the EU wide Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES).

Import controls on live animals and POAO are enforced by DARDNI.

For further information please contact:

Veterinary Service Trade Section
1st Floor, Ballykelly House
BT49 9HP

Telephone: 028 77442 096 or 028 77442 079

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