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Minister Smith Announces Significant Changes in Brucellosis Testing for 2011

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today announced an important change to the Brucellosis Eradication Scheme, in the context of the gradual scaling down of the testing programme. Under the new arrangements, the changes which he announced in September 2009 will remain in place and, in addition, 50% of suckler and dry stock herds will be exempted from Brucellosis testing at their annual herd surveillance test for 2011.

The Minister said that the decision to exempt 50% of suckler and drystock herds from Brucellosis testing would remove some 800,000 animals from the testing regime in 2011 and should result in savings of an estimated €2.5m to Irish farmers in 2011. He added that this change, together with the substantial changes which he announced in September 2009, would exempt over 2.1 million animals from the Brucellosis testing programme in 2011, with estimated savings of €7.5m to Irish farmers in terms of reduced testing costs. The Minister said that he was pleased to be in a position to reduce costs on the dairy and beef sectors at this time, while at the same time mitigating the overall level of risk of disease spread.

Minister Smith emphasised that the scaling down of the testing programme was possible only because of the substantial reduction in the incidence of the disease over the past number of years, leading to a decision by the European Community last year to grant officially brucellosis-free status to Ireland. He added that, in deciding on the arrangements for 2011, he had to strike a balance between the need to adopt a cautious approach to the scaling down of the controls, on the one hand, and his desire to remove costs both for farmers and the Department, on the other. In this context, the continuing existence of disease on the island is a very important consideration and he believed that the changes which he had made struck the correct balance. His decision has been taken following consultations with the farm organisations and he thanked them for their constructive approach.

The Minister reminded farmers of the changes announced in September 2009, which are being continued into 2011:

  • the age threshold for the annual round test was increased from 12 to 24 months
  • 50% of the dairy herd were excluded from the Annual Round test (the other 50% are to be tested this year)
  • the pre-movement test period was increased from 30 to 60 days
  • the age threshold for the pre-movement test was increased for female animals from 12 to 18 months and, in view of the lower risk attached to their movement, to 24 months for bulls.

Minister Smith said that there has not been any adverse outcome from these changes.

Minister Smith said that the effective eradication of Brucellosis in Ireland, which had been achieved, would have a very beneficial impact on the farming community in the years to come, particularly in relation to trade. He thanked all the stakeholders and officials in his Department for the part they played over the years in the eradication programme and he urged farmers to continue to be vigilant, particularly in relation to sourcing their stock requirements.

The Minister concluded by saying that "the changes I have made to-date are risk-based and take account of the fact that the disease is still present on the island. My Department will continue to monitor the situation and I would hope to be in a position to make further changes for 2012. Despite today's announcement of further progress in reducing brucellosis testing next year, there can be no room for complacency. It is essential that farmers continue to adopt appropriate replacement policies and effective bio-security measures. The attainment of official brucellosis free status for Ireland was a major achievement and we must continue to build on the country's high international animal health status, with benefits for all concerned."

Date Released: 10 November 2010