Flexibilities introduced to the TB testing regime in the wake of COVID-19 have been extended until 1 June 2021.
The Department said following ongoing discussions and consultation with farming and veterinary stakeholders that it was revising the protocol for TB testing.
Calves between 42 and 120 days of age should be TB tested only where both the farmer and the vet are satisfied that social distancing can be adhered to, according to the protocol.
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.
Calves aged over 120 days must have passed a TB test in order to move out of the herd.
If a calf was not tested during a herd test due to being aged 42 to 120 days, when it goes above 120 days, a private TB test will be required to enable it to move.
The exemption does not apply to reactor retests or to the requirements for TB testing for export.
Where a calf aged under 120 days is intended for export, the requirement for a 30-day pre-export TB test remains in place for calves over 42 days of age.
Where a herd cannot be TB tested due to COVID-19-related issues, the trading status of the herd will be suspended when the herd becomes overdue.
However, a grace period of 28 days from the date on which the herd test becomes due will be applied before this suspension comes into effect, during which the herd can continue trading.
When the suspension is then applied, moves directly to slaughter will still be permitted.
The Department urged all those involved in carrying out a TB test to act in accordance with the guidance of the HSE at all times.
IFA animal health chair Pat Farrell branded the extension as a “good move”.
Farrell welcomed the extension which will allows farmers to plan ahead for the duration of calf sales with clarity on the movement requirements.
“Allowing the sale of calves up to 120 days without the need for a TB test on the home market has gone down very well with both sellers and buyers and is an amendment we should seek to include permanently in the TB programme.”
Meanwhile ICMSA deputy president Lorcan McCabe has said that the Department are to be commended on their early decision to extend the protocol avoid uncertainty.
“The extension of this measure will be a relief to those dairy farmers who have calves to sell and gives a valuable leeway at a very difficult time.
“The 28-day testing extension will give breathing space to farmers who may be impacted by COVID-19 or simply isolating around the time of their expected herd test.”
McCabe warned that a balance must be struck between protecting farmers, their families and the wider community while also protecting herds against TB and not relaxing overall vigilance.
“The fact is that the incidence of bovine TB is rising again and we need to ensure that outbreaks are not made any worse due to delays in testing.”