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 and animal products from Great Britain

Why do we have import controls?

There are controls on bringing livestock and animal products 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.

Under the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP), Northern Ireland will remain in the same Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) zone as the EU. Therefore any consignments of live animals or animal products entering NI from GB after 1st January 2021 will be treated as entering the EU SPS zone from a Third Country.

DAERA applies national and EU legislation to control imports, and the main tools that it uses for imports from GB are Export Health Certificates (EHCs) and import licences where applicable. The EHCs and licences state what health and import conditions must be met so that animals or animal products can be imported, and you must comply with all of them.

The available EHCs for use for exporting animals and animal products from GB are available to view via Form Finder.

Pre-notification of moves into Northern Ireland from GB

As well as requirements for EHCs and licences there is a requirement that importers must pre-notify some movements of live animals and animal products into Northern Ireland using the EU’s TRACES NT system. This applies for movements which are not wholly within the EU and NI including moves which originate in or transit Great Britain. You can find further information at Instructions for business pre-notifying the arrival of a consignment at a Northern Ireland Point of Entry.


There are two types of import 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.

General import licences for animals/animal products

Specific licences

These are issued to a particular importer for a particular consignment.  Currently, the species/animal products that require an Import Licence are:

  • Sheep and goats for breeding and production
  • Pigs for breeding and production
  • Laboratory animals for research
  • Porcine Semen

Licenses must be applied for at least 10 working days in advance of the date of arrival and are usually valid for 21 days but can only be used for a single consignment.

 Apply for a Specific Import Licence -

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

Importing animals

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

Following the end of the EU Exit transition period new rules apply for 1 January 2021.  You can find detailed guidance on importing at Importing animals, animal products and by products.

For more specific information, please use the links below:

Zootechnical rules and standards from 1st January 2021

The rules and standards you must follow if you trade purebred breeding animals, hybrid breeding pigs or germinal products such as semen or embryos.

European Commission animal breeding regulations will no longer be in force in Northern Ireland from 1st January 2021.

However, UK zootechnical rules will remain largely the same because of the Animal Breeding (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations.

The requirements of the Northern Ireland Protocol will mean that some elements of the EU regulations will still have to be considered in Northern Ireland, such as the requirements for zootech certificates when importing and exporting animals.

For more information on zootechnical rules and standards, including zootech certificates and pedigree certificates, in order to move purebred animals into Northern Ireland after 1 January 2021, visit Zootechnical rules and standards - FAQs.

Importing animal products

New rules apply from 1 January 2021.  You can find detailed guidance on importing here.

For more specific information, please use the links below:

Importing from the EU (including ROI)

Under the provisions of the NIP from 1 January 2021 movement of animals and animal products from EU Member States to NI remains unchanged.  Consignments will therefore continue to be accompanied with the relevant type of documentation, e.g. TRACES Intra Trade Health Certificate or commercial document.

Sheep imported from EU Member States may be tested for Maedi Visna/Brucellosis Melitensis/Brucellosis Ovis/Contagious Agalactia post import.
The importer will be contacted by the local Divisional Veterinary Officer for this purpose.
It is strongly recommended the imported animals are isolated until the results of these tests are received.

Importing from Rest of the World

Animals and animal products from countries outside the EU must be imported via an approved Border Control Posts (BCPs), 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.

Official controls

Regulation (EU) 2017/625 (OCR) on official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products, came into force on 14 December 2019.  It replaced existing provisions for official controls across the agri-food chain previously contained in a number of different EU laws.

The OCR applies directly in Northern Ireland by virtue of the Windsor Framework. In Great Britain the OCR has been retained in UK law, meaning that the same official controls will apply across the whole of the UK.

Imports to Northern Ireland

The OCR establishes an integrated approach to import controls and sets out common rules on controls which are carried out at borders on animals, products of animal origin, plants and other products and goods that must be checked before they enter the EU.  The import control system is risk-based and targeted, therefore it is less burdensome for Competent Authorities and businesses alike.

The Official Controls (Animals, Feed and Food) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019 implement and enforce OCR in Northern Ireland.  These Regulations support the implementation of the animal health and welfare aspects of OCR and, thereby, help to improve biosecurity, prevent the spread of animal diseases and uphold the humane treatment of animals. They also help raise standards of food safety and consumer protection and contribute to the anticipated benefits of a more efficient and effective control system. These Regulations designate the Department as the competent authority for undertaking official controls and provides for the exchange of information on official controls amongst competent authorities within the UK and EU. They also confer powers on auditors and inspectors to allow them to verify that the official controls that have taken place.

The Trade in Animals and Related Products Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 establishes a system for trade with EU member states and provide for the execution and  enforcement of the OCR in relation to the movements into Northern Ireland of live animals, products of animal origin and germinal products from outside the EU.  These Regulations ensure that the live animals and products of animal origin entering Northern Ireland from EU Member States and third countries are safe with regard to animal and public health and that they meet the specific import conditions laid down in OCR.

The Plant Health (Official Controls and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 gives effect to the OCR in Northern Ireland. These regulations are in place to protect against the introduction, spread and establishment of quarantine and RNQP of plants and plant products. These Regulations designate the Department as the competent authority for undertaking official controls, and confer powers on the Department to execute and enforce OCR requirements to protect biosecurity.

More useful links

Import controls on live animals and POAO are enforced by DAERA NI

For further information please contact:

Veterinary Service Trade Section
1st Floor, Ballykelly House
BT49 9HP
Telephone: 028 905 24588
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