DAERA relaxes herd restrictions for overdue TB tests

Date published: 09 April 2020

Farmers with herds that are overdue a TB test will not face any restrictions for 35 days, as opposed to seven days, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced.

Outlining the reason for the change Minister Poots said: “These are worrying times for us all and COVID-19 has, and continues to force us to consider the ways in which we work, and our current working practices.

“Last week, my Department updated the position with regard to TB testing during the pandemic.  In general, TB testing should not take place unless both the vet and the farmer are certain that social distancing can be maintained throughout the test in line with Public Health Agency guidelines. 

“I recognise that social distancing can have significant implications for our farming community. I have therefore taken the decision to extend the time at which a herd is placed under restrictions for an overdue herd test.  With immediate effect, farmers will not automatically have their herd restricted until 35 days after their TB test becomes overdue.  This will help facilitate those herds that are not currently under a TB restriction to continue to trade as normally as possible during these difficult times.”

As the Department is currently operating in a fast paced and ever changing environment, all decisions and current practices will be kept under constant review.

Health advice and information on government services is available at: www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/covid-19-coronavirus and www.nidirect.gov.uk/coronavirus

Notes to editors: 

  1. Currently herd restrictions are automatically applied once a TB test is seven days overdue.  This is because once a test becomes overdue, the TB status of the herd is unknown and it is a potential risk to other herds.  These restrictions will now apply 35 days after the test becomes overdue.  Moves to slaughter will continue to be allowed. 
  2. The position regarding bTB testing during the COVID-19 pandemic is being kept under constant review taking into account feedback from herd owners and vets and the experiences of other jurisdictions.  However, the DAERA position will continue to be primarily based on the advice of the Public Health Agency.  The health of farm families and testing veterinarians is our key priority.
  3. Abattoir disease surveillance is an integral part of the bTB Eradication Programme. Public health is assured as all animals slaughtered for human consumption are subject to ante and post mortem inspection. Carcasses are examined for visible signs of bTB infection, amongst other things. Disclosure of suspect visible signs (or lesions) of bTB at PME will, subject to veterinary risk assessment, result in the exclusion of either the infected part of the carcass or the entire carcass from human consumption. Samples will be sent for further laboratory examination and the finding will also trigger the application of disease control measures to the herd presenting the animal.
  4. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.
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