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What is Bovine Brucellosis?

Bovine Brucellosis

Brucellosis in cattle is a highly contagious disease which is spread by infected material at time of calving or abortion and which can also result in infertility, morbidity and reduced milk yield. The organism is readily killed by disinfection. There are also human health risks because the disease may be transmitted by drinking unpasteurised milk from infected cows, by inhalation, cuts and abrasions, or by droplet infection. The only clinical symptom of brucellosis in cattle is abortion and it is obligatory to report all abortions to the Department's local District Veterinary Office (DVO).

Precautions against Brucellosis infection in cattle

  • Breed own replacements where possible
  • If buying in replacement or additional females or bulls:
    • ensure that they come from a reliable source and have been pre-movement tested within 60 days prior to movement;
    • isolate moved in animals from other females and bulls. Any pregnant bought in animals should be isolated pending completion of a post calving test;
    • ensure all blood tests are carried out promptly, including the voluntary post-movement test within 30 days of arrival at the farm – failure to do so will result in reduced rates of compensation payable in the event of a disease breakdown;
  • Take precautions to ensure that disease does not enter the herd from a neighbouring herd so maintain proper boundary fences and keep susceptible animals away from boundary fences - use these areas for bullocks, fodder or non-bovines;
  • DO NOT borrow/lend equipment such as calving jack, cattle trailer, slurry spreader etc.;
  • Isolate all pregnant animals away from boundary fields and observe them carefully for any signs of premature calving;
  • Provide adequate calving facilities.

Testing Arrangements

Ireland made significant progress towards the final eradication of Brucellosis in cattle and achieved Official Brucellosis Free Status in July 2009. The Department is gradually reducing the number of herds subject to the annual "round" test however, a cautious approach is being adopted to reducing controls and any changes to the programme are based on risk assessment. Consequently certain current measures are maintained, albeit with some changes, including the requirement for a pre-movement test. In this regard, the changes regarding the testing requirements made with effect from 9 September 2009 included the following:

(i) Annual herd "round" test: The age threshold for all animals was changed to 24 months or over.  Therefore only animals 24 months or over are required to be presented for testing.

(ii) Pre-movement test - Age threshold:  The age threshold for pre-movement testing for female animals was increased to 18 months or more and to 24 months or more for bulls.

(iii) Pre-movement test - period: The period for the pre-movement testing requirement was extended from 30 days to 60 days.

(iv) One movement per test: The age threshold for female animals is 18 months or more. The 12 month threshold for bulls has been raised to 24 months or more i.e. female cattle aged 18 months or more and bulls aged 24 months or more may not be sold more than once, whether by public or private sale, on foot of a brucellosis test and such cattle being sold must be moved from the holding where tests are undertaken direct to either the purchaser's holding or direct to a mart and from there direct to the purchaser’s holding.

(v) Other tests: The rules are unchanged for all other testing measures e.g. contiguous, backtrace etc. i.e. all eligible animals must be tested in certain cases e.g. where a reactor is disclosed, suspect/positive abortion, contiguous tests etc. To be eligible for consideration for the Standard Rate Plus Depopulation Grant in the event of a Brucellosis breakdown in your herd, any eligible animals that move into a holding must have also have had a Brucellosis post-movement test conducted within 30 days of entering the holding.

The Department reserves the right to request any animal to be presented for test where deemed appropriate on veterinary grounds.

If you have concerns that Brucellosis may be present in your herd please contact your local DVO immediately.