Northern Ireland

Brucellosis: Three years since last NI case says Department of Agriculture

Cows Image copyright Getty Images

Stormont's Department of Agriculture is to apply to the European Union for Northern Ireland cattle to be declared free of the disease brucellosis.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill said it was three years since the last confirmed case of the disease.

It causes pregnant cows to miscarry and can spread to humans.

The minister said brucellosis-free status would mean control measures could be reduced, bringing "significant savings for livestock farmers".

"We must not be complacent and I would remind farmers of the importance of complying with the current testing requirements," she said.

"It is also vital to continue to report all abortions and any suspicion of the disease so that Veterinary Service staff can follow up with the necessary investigations."

Ulster Farmers' Union deputy president Ivor Ferguson said: "It will reduce a lot of bureaucracy around this and also more importantly reduce the cost to farmers, which are currently around £7m per annum in Northern Ireland.

"It comes at a great time, when our meat plants are exploring new markets all over the world."

The department is to begin a consultation next week on reducing brucellosis control measures like routine on-farm testing and pre-movement testing.

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