NI farmers will have to pay for additional TB tests which are a result of new EU animal health laws.

The rules will require an animal to be either pre- or post-movement TB-tested within 30 days of moving to another holding, if both the animal and its herd of origin have not tested negative within the previous six months.

Farmers will be required to test at their own cost

Speaking at Stormont on Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots told MLAs that the new requirements will have “a significant impact” on farmers who sell livestock six months after their last herd test.

“Farmers will be required to test at their own cost before taking their animals to a livestock mart,” Minister Poots said.

Increased expense

A briefing paper from DAERA, which was published on the NI Assembly website last week, also confirms that “the cost of the movement test will be an increased expense for industry”.

The document states that the new rules will also mean it will take at least a year for some herds to regain “officially TB-free” status after a TB breakdown.

Two clear herd tests will be required, with the first being six months after the removal of any reactor animals, and the second test being six months after the first.

At present, TB tests are only required to be conducted at least 60 days apart.

However, DAERA officials maintain that “many of our herds” will meet derogation requirements which allow them to be exempt from the new rules on regaining TB-free status.

This includes if the breakdown herd had a clear test within the previous 12 months, or if the breakdown was the result of a single reactor and the herd has not been “officially TB withdrawn” within the last three years.

The document states that the new rules will be phased in gradually

Another change under the EU animal health laws is that all animals that test positive for TB under the interferon gamma blood test will have to be culled.

At present, herd owners can choose to keep animals that give a positive blood test, if they have a negative skin test result.

The document states that the new rules will be phased in gradually and it will be “several months” before NI is fully compliant with the new EU animal health laws.

The new laws apply to NI farms due to the NI protocol element of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Discussing the matter at Stormont earlier this week, Minister Poots repeated calls from unionist politicians for the NI protocol to be removed.

“We had no role in making that legislation, and we will have no role in amending it. That demonstrates the perversity of the situation that we find ourselves in,” he said.