Farms that import live animals for breeding and production from third countries, including Britain, will have their herds restricted for at least 30 days following the importation of livestock.

The new rules affect a relatively low number of farms, but they are critical for pedigree breeders in particular, who commonly source new genetics from Britain.

The rules are not known by many producers, with several breeders concerned about the changes contacting the Irish Farmers Journal following a message circulated to farmers on 30 June.

The message read: "Requirements for animals imported from non-EU countries (e.g. GB) apply from 1 July. Contact RVO for information."

The Department of Agriculture has provided further information to the Irish Farmers Journal, which will help to bring breeders up to speed on what it means for imports.

It is worth pointing out at the outset that the conditions governing the entry of ovine (sheep) animals also applies to bovine, caprine (goat), camelid (camels), cervid (deer) and porcine (pigs) animals. It does not apply in Ireland to registered equine animals or pet animals such as canines (dogs) and felines (cats).

Import requirements

The rules relating to the animal species above essentially lay down requirements for the isolation and quarantine of animals imported from a third country.

The Department states: “Once an operator moves an animal into their herd from a Third Country, their herd will be restricted for a period of 30 days. The legislation will make it an offence to move any animal out of the farm during the 30-day restriction period except to slaughter or to a knackery.”

The above restrictions do not apply to the “movement of animals moved into the herd from another establishment in Ireland (including Northern Ireland) or from another EU Member State”.

The Department explains that these rules are designed to “ensure that intracommunity trade in bovine, ovine, caprine, camelid, cervid and porcine animals can continue by preventing indirect contact at places such as marts, shows and assembly centres with animals sold from an importing farm”.

The rules are governed by Statutory Instrument (S.I.) 784 of 2021, as amended by S.I. 259 of 2023.

The restriction status of the farm importing the animals went live on the Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) and Animal Health Computer System (AHCS) on 1 July - the same date that inspections and checks to ensure compliance with the legislation began.

Impact at farm level

The rules are now part of Irish legislation and must be abided by. For breeders planning to import sheep from Britain, they must consider if the restriction will affect their plans. For example, could importing a ram prevent presenting rams at shows?

It likely complicates the timeframe for pedigree breeders too, who have plans to import genetics from Britain for using this season, as the window is limited with the breeding season approaching fast.