Herd restrictions resulting from an overdue bTB test will return to being applied seven days after a test becomes overdue, it has been announced.
From 1 December TB restrictions will go back to their usual measures, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said.
Restrictions will also be applied to herds with TB tests overdue by more than seven days and less than 35 days, affecting moves to livestock markets and other herds.
From 5 January 2021 when a herd test is 37 days overdue or more, measures will be in place to prevent other cattle being moved into restricted herds and to stop restricted herds being transported to slaughterhouses.
DAERA Minister Edwin Poots said it was ‘essential’ that herd tests were carried out within the prescribed timeframes, both for the control of the disease and to ensure that the NI TB Programme remained 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,” he said.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has welcomed the news, adding that farmers were ‘grateful’ of the flexibility given by DAERA.
UFU animal health and welfare chairman Andrew McCammond said: “I urge our farmers to be aware of the usual measures being reinstated from the beginning of December and in the New Year.
“This is vital to make sure that the movement of their herds does not become restricted down the line impacting negatively on their farm businesses.
“Until further advised, cattle farmers will not be referred to the paying agency for overdue TB tests if they and/or their private veterinary practitioner advise DAERA that the test could not be completed during the testing window due to Covid-19 concerns.”
In April 2020, the grace period before herd restrictions were applied as the result of an overdue TB test increased from seven to 35 days.
Restrictions relating to moves to slaughter and the ability of herds with overdue tests to purchase cattle were also relaxed to ensure the continuation of food supply.
Other measures introduced since the start of the pandemic remain in place.