New rules that came into force due to the implementation of the NI Protocol on 1 January 2021 have created problems for local pedigree livestock breeders.
With NI in the EU single market for goods, but Britain classed as a third country, where an animal moves from Britain to NI it must now be accompanied by an Export Health Certificate. Listed within the certificate is the requirement that the animal must have resided at least six months in the exporting country.
In practice, it means if local breeders enter animals at premier society sales in Britain, and these animals remain unsold, they cannot return home.
With the upcoming premier spring bulls sales at Carlisle and Stirling later this month, the issue has caused considerable frustration among local breeders.
Many have since withdrawn bulls, and are now concentrating on promoting animals for private sales as well as targeting local club sales.
That should mean that the quality of bulls on offer at these sales is improved, and with no change to cattle movements from NI to Britain, there is an opportunity for buyers from Britain to buy online at these sales.
There is also nothing to stop NI farmers buying at sales in Britain, although they will have to avoid NI bred bulls. If they buy a bull bred in Britain, it will have to be re-tagged when brought to NI.
But with new rules also applying to the importation of semen, pedigree breeders are hoping that the UK and EU can find long-term solutions to overcome current trade barriers.
Upperlands, Co Derry
I have four bulls entered for the sale at Carlisle later this month. At the moment, I am still planning to take the bulls across to the sale.
Good genetics and well-bred bulls from NI will still attract buying interest in Britain. We have to be positive about selling top-quality breeding stock and not talk ourselves down.
The May sale may be more of a concern for me personally, as I usually take bigger numbers across for the breeding female sales. I may have to rethink things for this sale.
I am hopeful a solution can be reached that will allow local breeders to move animals across to the premier sales in Britain without any problems.
Kilbride Farm, Ballyclare, Co Antrim
We had 10 bulls listed for sale this spring and originally planned on taking animals to the premier Simmental sale at Stirling.
However, these plans have changed and we are now focused on selling bulls privately. Thankfully, there are customers looking for breeding stock and we have sold bulls into Britain this month.
The new rules are just too risky for local breeders. If a bull cannot be sold, or is turned down in the pre-sale inspection, the breeder has little choice but to take the animal to slaughter.
Standing an unsold bull in a livery yard for six months, with the intention of bringing the animal home, is a non-runner because of the costs.
The bull would also be too old at the end of a six-month residency, leaving breeders with very few sale options.
Beragh, Co Tyrone
I had three bulls entered for the Charolais sale in Stirling this month but will not be taking the animals over given the potential problems that would arise if a bull could not be sold.
NI breeders only take the best of their stock over to these sales and are usually among the top prices within the main breeds.
Local club sales will benefit with more top end cattle being offered for sale, but it will be difficult to match those prices from Stirling.
There is a bit of a double standard with horses able to move back and forward to sales in Britain on a temporary passport, but cattle face restrictions.
The rule changes are also going to impact on the availability of export approved semen, which is a big part of pedigree breeding.
James Porter, Lisburn, Co Antrim
I usually have Angus and Shorthorn bulls for sale at the spring sales in Stirling, but I have decided to concentrate on selling bulls from home this year.
Thankfully, there is plenty of demand for bulls at the moment. Getting bulls ready for Stirling takes a lot of time and there are plenty of costs between pre-movement testing, transport, etc.
By cutting out these costs and getting a good price at home, I feel I am just as well off selling out of the yard with less hassle.
If I took bulls over to Stirling and the animal couldn’t be sold, it could cost £60 or £70 a week to have it kept in a livery unit. It just wouldn’t stack up trying to get an unsold animal back home.