Poots announces change to calf testing requirements to enhance safe bTB testing

Date published: 30 April 2020

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has today announced further measures to enable more TB herd tests to be completed safely on farms.

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From 04 May 2020 calves under 180 days old may be exempt from all bovine TB (bTB) herd test types if they cannot be tested safely in accordance with the latest Public Health Agency guidance on social distancing amid the Covid-19 crisis.

This will allow more herd tests to proceed safely. The Minister also announced a number of additional temporary measures to ease movement and testing controls while protecting animal health.

Minister Poots said: “From the onset of the coronavirus pandemic my department and I implemented a number of changes to safeguard the health and wellbeing of farmers, veterinary practitioners and staff, and I gave a commitment to keep this under review.

“To further enhance those measures I have decided to relax testing for calves under 180 days old where such tests can’t be carried out safely and in line with current PHA guidance on social distancing. This will facilitate more testing of older cattle, where herd tests can proceed safely, and will help to maintain the vital TB surveillance programme during the Covid-19 crisis. Herds with clear tests will retain or regain their Officially TB Free (OTF) status and can trade freely with the exception of untested calves aged between 42 and 180 days.

“To protect animal health and Northern Ireland’s international trading position the untested calves will be restricted and cannot be traded until/unless they can be tested safely with a negative result. This measure will be kept under review.

“In addition to relaxing the testing of calves I have also announced a number of temporary measures to ease the burden on farmers during this temporary phase, while maintaining animal health controls.”

Additional temporary measures include;

  • Herds restricted for overdue tests will be allowed to purchase in cattle
  • Herds will not be automatically associated when cattle are permitted to move, on welfare grounds, from one TB restricted herd to another restricted herd
  • The requirement for herds, that haven’t been tested for 15 months, to complete two herd tests before regaining OTF status is being withdrawn as a temporary measure.
  • Where a vet practice is not carrying out any bTB tests, the farmer can contact their local Divisional Veterinary Office (DVO) to request change of vet.  Once the DVO confirms the situation with the veterinary practice, the test can be re-assigned to the DVO or another practice.
  • The number of TB letters sent to farmers will be reduced by streamlining the current communications.

Further information on bTB testing during Covid-19 can be obtained at http://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/testing-bovine-tuberculosis-during-covid-19-pandemic

The latest PHA Covid-19 guidance is available at https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/

Notes to editors: 

1. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office at pressoffice.group@daera-ni.gov.uk. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.

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