Europe says Ireland now free of cattle brucellosis


IRELAND’S APPLICATION for official brucellosis-free status in its cattle herd has been officially approved by the European Commission.

While Ireland had declared itself free of the disease many years ago before EU entry, it came close to losing the status in the late 1990s when outbreaks hit many farms, especially in Munster. Ireland risked being shut out of many countries which will not accept dairy products from countries where brucellosis, a disease which causes abortion in cattle and can be contracted by humans, is above certain levels in the national herd.

Welcoming the decision, Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith said yesterday he would implement a controlled reduction in the brucellosis-eradication programme over the next few years.

This would involve increasing the period for pre-movement of cattle tests and increasing the period of annual testing to 24 months. He will retain the age limit for pre-movement tests at 12 months for cows, but will increase it to 18 months for bulls.

He described the announcement yesterday as a landmark in the history of disease eradication in Ireland but warned there should be no complacency in the future.

IFA deputy president Derek Deane said the decision was welcome, but it was disappointing the Minister had not returned the full €15 million in cost reductions allowable to farmers. “Farmers will feel let down by the Minister’s failure to reward the sustained efforts of the farming community in achieving this milestone.”

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association president Jackie Cahill welcomed the decision and said the work and huge costs borne principally by farmers had now paid off.

The Veterinary Officers’ Association, representing vets in the Department of Agriculture, said the decision would further enhance Ireland’s enviable animal health status internationally.

The last recorded case of brucellosis was found here in 2006.