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Minister Smith Announces Savings in the Region of €5 Million for Irish Farmers

Significant Changes in Brucellosis Testing Arrangements

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today announced a series of significant changes to the Brucellosis Eradication Scheme, following the recent European Commission decision granting Ireland officially brucellosis-free status.

The changes announced by the Minister include

  • an increase in the age threshold for annual round testing to 24 months;
  • an increase in the validity period of the pre-movement test from 30 days to 60 days;
  • an increase in the age-limit for the pre-movement test for female animals from 12 to 18 months and, in view of the lower risk attached to their movement, to 24 months for bulls;
  • the pre-movement test "one sale" rule applying to female cattle aged 18 months or more is retained. However, as a result of the change in age threshold for bulls, the "one sale" rule for bulls is being increased from 12 to 24 months.

These changes to the brucellosis programme will be implemented with effect from 9th September 2009.

In addition to these immediate changes to the programme, Minister Smith also said that he had now taken decisions on the further steps to be taken in 2010 and in 2011 in scaling down the testing programme.  In this context, the Minister said "I am pleased to confirm that, commencing on 1 January 2010, dairy herds scheduled to be tested in 2010 and 2011 will now be tested every second year.  This will exclude some 550,000 animals each year from the round test and, when taken in conjunction with the increase in the age threshold to 24 months which is being introduced immediately will remove some 1.35m animals from the annual testing programme".

The Minister said that the new arrangements, will reduce the cost of testing to farmers by removing the need to test approximately a quarter of all eligible animals during the course of annual herd testing. In addition, the extension of the pre-movement test to 60 days combined with the increase in the age threshold to 18 months for female animals will result in further significant savings for farmers. The total saving from these changes is estimated to be in the region of €5m, which Minister Smith said, was important in view of the income difficulties facing the beef and dairy sector at the present time. "Reducing the burden of testing at herd level in a strategic way gives greater all-round benefit while continuing to mitigate the overall level of risk of disease spread".

The Minister said that "in determining the most appropriate 'step-back' process from the very successful brucellosis programme, I had a number of strategic choices to make and I have decided to concentrate on modifying those measures that generate greatest costs on farmers - herd level surveillance and pre-movement testing - while continuing to minimise the disease risk from any residual or introduced infection. Today's decision will remove some 1.35 million animal tests in 2010 and the strategy will result in a considerable reduction in testing costs for farmers, while providing assurance regarding containment of any disease."

Minister Smith said that the attainment of official brucellosis-free status was a landmark in the history of disease eradication in Ireland and would have a very beneficial impact on the farming community in the years to come, particularly in relation to trade. He added: "This success resulted from the co-operation and sustained efforts of all the stakeholders in the eradication programme, which was developed and managed by officials in my Department. Whilst there is no room for complacency with regard to this disease and we must continue to be vigilant, nevertheless we will purposefully move to reduce the overall costs of our surveillance programme in a strategic way. Working together we can build on our high animal health status, with benefits for all concerned, in terms of on-farm costs, exchequer contribution, public health, international reputation and market access."

The Minister concluded by saying that "the steps I have taken are risk-based and focussed on reducing costs on farmers generally. They strike a balance between reducing significantly herd-based surveillance testing whilst maintaining vigilance regarding movement of animals. Reducing the burden of testing at herd level in a strategic way gives greater all-round cost reduction benefit while continuing to mitigate the overall level of risk of disease spread".

Date Released: 08 September 2009