Written answers

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Department of Agriculture and Food

Bovine Diseases

7:00 pm

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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Question 44: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the value of the recently announced changes in brucellosis testing to Irish farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45047/10]

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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Question 67: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to introduce further changes in brucellosis testing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45048/10]

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 67 together.

As the Deputy is aware, I announced on 10 November 2010 that 50% of suckler and dry stock herds will be exempted from Brucellosis testing at their annual herd surveillance test for 2011. In addition, the changes which I announced in September 2009 will remain in place. These changes were as follows:

the age threshold for the annual round test was increased from 12 to 24 months

50% of the dairy herd were excluded from the Annual Round test (the other 50% are to be tested this year)

the pre-movement test period was increased from 30 to 60 days

the age threshold for the pre-movement test was increased for female animals from 12 to 18 months and, in view of the lower risk attached to their movement, to 24 months for bulls.

The decision to exempt 50% of suckler and dry stock herds from Brucellosis testing will remove some 800,000 animals from the testing regime in 2011 and should result in savings of an estimated €2.5m to Irish farmers in 2011. This change, together with the changes which I announced in September 2009, will exempt over 2.1 million animals from the Brucellosis testing programme in 2011, and will save Irish farmers approximately €7.5m in terms of reduced testing costs next year. I am pleased to be in a position to reduce costs on the dairy and beef sectors at this time, while at the same time mitigating the overall level of risk of disease spread.

I should also emphasise that the effective eradication of Brucellosis in Ireland, which has now been achieved, will have a very beneficial impact on the farming community in the years to come, particularly in relation to trade. I wish to thank all the stakeholders and officials of my Department for the part they played over the years in the eradication programme.

The changes which I have announced to the Brucellosis testing regime have been made in the context of the gradual risk based scaling down of the testing programme, which has been made possible only because of the substantial reduction in the incidence of the disease over the past number of years, leading to a decision by the European Community last year to grant officially brucellosis-free status to Ireland. No decision will be taken on any further changes until next Autumn. Any decision will be risk based and will take account of the continuing existence of disease in Northern Ireland, on the one hand, and the desirability of removing costs both for farmers and the Department, on the other.

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