The sheep sector has welcomed changes to scrapie monitoring requirements that will enable the continued movement of breeding sheep to Northern Ireland.
An agreement has been reached to allow breeders involved in the trade of breeding sheep between GB and NI to register for the new scrapie requirements.
This can be done through membership of a new Scrapie Qualifying Scheme (SQS), now available through SRUC's Premium Sheep and Goat Health Scheme.
The agreement with the EU Commission allows a short window, up until 31 December 2021, within which farmers can apply to join this scheme.
It takes three years to complete the scheme and to have full scrapie monitored status, but it has been agreed that farmers can trade from day one of entry.
Once an application is made, stock will be deemed to comply with these requirements. Existing MV accreditation remains as it was previously.
The National Sheep Association (NSA) welcomed the changes, adding that it was 'crucial' for breeders to register for this qualifying scheme.
"Farmers should also be aware that once in the scheme they will only be able to source incoming stock from other SQS or SMS flocks, so the option to join needs consideration," the body's chief executive, Phil Stocker said.
"At this stage this only applies for farm-to-farm movements and there is more work to be done in relation to establishing any Export Assembly Centres that might bring us back to any level of normality of competitive auctioning in this trade.”
Work remains ongoing to try to make trade smoother, in particular around the guidelines for export assembly centres and the conditions for stock coming from NI and having the ability to return if necessary, avoiding a 6-month residency period.
Further details on SQS, the application process and scheme rules are available to download from SRUC's website.