Local pedigree livestock breeders are pushing for upcoming sales in Britain to be export approved so that livestock can return to NI without a six-month standstill period.

To date, no cattle or sheep sales have been conducted with the required licences in place, although the Three Nations sale of female Suffolks in Carlisle last November came close.

All exhibitors had followed necessary steps to demonstrate that the sheep on show had the same health status. This includes isolating all sheep earmarked for sale on individual farms for 30 days before the event, plus getting inspected by a local vet.

It is understood that the sale did not meet the export approval standards in the end as it transpired late in the day that one exhibitor was in breach of rules about buying in sheep close to the sale date.

However, local breeders are still keen to get export approved events over the line for the main breed society sales this year.

At present, only Carlisle mart has the required licence from the UK Animal Health and Plant Agency to conduct export approved sales. However, it is understood that other marts in Britain are currently working through the licencing process.


The need for the six-month standstill period for NI livestock stems from the original Brexit withdrawal agreement which came into effect in January 2021. This issue was not addressed in the Windsor Framework which was agreed between the EU and UK last week.

Under the original Brexit deal, the export health certificate (EHC) which is required to get NI livestock back from sales in Britain states that a 180-day residency period must be completed before stock can return.

However, a new EHC which was agreed by representatives from farmer organisations, DAERA, the UK government, and the European Commission last year allows stock to return to NI within 15 days if the sale in Britain is licenced for export.

The export licence involves stringent requirements for both livestock exhibitors and marts. For example, with cattle sales, exhibitors need to TB test before the event. Only Scottish herds are exempt from this requirement due to the country’s TB free status.

Likewise, there are strict rules for marts around the health status of all livestock brought on to the premises. This is difficult given that some pedigree sales run over two days and the main marts in Britain have more than one sales ring.