What is Brucellosis?

This section includes information regarding the nature of Brucellosis and details of the Department's role in its eradication, as well as the associated legislation and animal testing procedures.

The nature of Brucellosis

Brucellosis is a highly contagious disease of cattle caused by a bacterium which spreads as result of animals coming into contact with infected female cattle, aborted foetuses or discharged placental tissues and fluids. The disease can lead to an abortion storm in infected females and if it becomes established can lead to decreased milk yields, infertility, weak calves and serious financial loss. The disease is particularly dangerous to humans who come into contact with infected animals or material.

Northern Ireland was awarded Officially Brucellosis Free (OBF) status on 6th October 2015.

Testing for Brucellosis

Over the past 50 years the Department has undertaken a programme of compulsory testing of all breeding bovine animals, the removal and slaughter of infected and in-contact animals, the imposition of movement restrictions and follow-up testing on herds thought to be at risk.

Female cattle and bulls over 24 months old are eligible for testing at routine brucellosis blood tests.

Cattle do not currently require a Brucellosis Pre-movement Test.

Brucellosis control policy

Brucellosis policy is based on the following principles:

  • quick and accurate identification of diseased animals
  • isolation from non-infected herd-mates
  • identification of high-risk contact animals
  • rapid removal and slaughter
  • rapid and accurate tracing of reactors back through contact herds
  • rapid and accurate tracing of animals that have moved through infected herds
  • identification of "at risk" herds and rapid check testing
  • effective cleansing and disinfection of premises
  • effective epidemiological investigations
  • good surveillance systems
  • co-operation of farmers
  • appropriate compensation and incentives to eradicate
  • effective enforcement procedures
  • removal of risk of reintroduction at herd, regional and country-wide levels

Pre-movement testing

Brucellosis pre-movement tests are not required for cattle moves within Northern Ireland.

Compensation

Farmers are compensated for losses in respect of animals slaughtered under the Department's brucellosis prevention and eradication control programme.

For both reactors and in contact animals 75% of the animal’s market value based on an individual valuation or on an average of market prices (whichever is the lesser) is paid.

Valuations are carried out by a DAERA livestock valuation officer and, in the case of a disagreement over the DAERA valuation, on a second individual valuation carried out by an independent valuer. For more information, please see information about the process of compensation.

Brucellosis related legislation

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