In order to enable the safe continuation of the TB testing element of the Irish bovine TB eradication programme, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has introduced certain flexibilities in relation to the TB testing of cattle. These are the same conditions which applied during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and their re-introduction follows discussions with stakeholder organisations.
The two key points are:
1. A 28 day grace period will be applied from the due date of the annual round test before a herd is automatically restricted. This will enable farmers with concerns about COVID19 to delay their round test and continue trading while they make appropriate arrangements for up to 28 days before a restriction applies.
2. Calves aged 42-120 days are not required to be included in a herd TB test, unless both the farmer and the vet agree that it is safe to do so. This exemption does not apply to reactor retest. If calves under 120 days are not tested, they will be eligible for movement once the herd retains its free status, until they reach 120 days of age.
Since March 2020, DAFM has published a protocol on COVID19 and TB testing which has been updated at least monthly, and which contains guidance for farmers and vets and details on how TB testing can be carried out safely in compliance with HSE guidance. This protocol will be updated to reflect the re-introduction of the two changes described here, and will contain further details of how they apply in practice. The COVID19/TB protocol can be seen at www.bovinetb.ie.
These changes will be subject to ongoing review and may be updated based on HSE guidance and the COVID19 situation, as they have been regularly revised since March 2020.