Some mitigating measures introduced in spring 2020 to minimise disruption to bTB testing as the result of the Covid-19 pandemic are to end, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced.
Since March 2020 herd keepers have not been referred to the paying agency for overdue bTB tests if they and/or their Private Veterinary Practitioner (PVP) advise DAERA that the test could not be completed by the due date for reasons associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. From 16 August 2021 this measure will no longer apply.
However, normal protocols for managing overdue skin tests include a provision that keepers will not be referred to the paying agencies if DAERA is notified, before a TB test deadline passes, of extenuating circumstances that will prevent a test going ahead. Extenuating circumstances could include, for example, a requirement for self-isolation due to Covid-19.
Minister Poots said: “Last year I took early action to implement a number of changes to safeguard the health and wellbeing of farmers, veterinary practitioners and staff. These actions also ensured that our bTB programme could continue to operate during the pandemic.
“At the time I agreed to keep these measures under review and I believe we have now reached the point where normal arrangements can resume.
“It is essential that our bTB herd tests are carried out within the prescribed timeframes, both for the control of the disease and to ensure that the Northern Ireland TB Programme remains compliant with legislative requirements. Our TB Programme facilitates access to export markets by our export dependent livestock and livestock product sectors. This trade is worth £1.7 billion to the beef and dairy industry each year.”
In addition, also from 16 August 2021, the exemption from bTB herd tests for calves under 180 days of age will end, while herds that exceed 15 months without a herd test will return to requiring two clear tests to reinstate their Officially Tuberculosis Free status. However calves under 42 days of age will remain exempt from all future bTB herd tests.