I am aware that there has been an increase in the incidence of Brucellosis in certain parts of Northern Ireland, particularly Co Armagh, since the beginning of 2010. The total number of herd breakdowns in Armagh so far this year is 19 compared with 12 in 2009. Latest figures show the county experienced 5 disease breakdowns in June this year, followed by 3 in July, 2 in August but there were no breakdowns in September. However, the number of outbreaks in Northern Ireland as a whole in the period January to September has fallen from 177 in 2008 to 76 in 2009 and again to 56 this year. Notwithstanding the improvement in the overall situation and in response to the outbreaks in Armagh, the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland (DARD) has introduced additional testing in the Armagh area and they believe that the situation is now under control. The reduction in the incidence of the disease in recent months indicates that this is the case.
With regard to the question of whether the disease situation in Northern Ireland could have a negative effect on herd owners in the adjoining counties south of the border, imports of eligible animals from Northern Ireland are both pre-movement tested before leaving NI and post-movement tested for Brucellosis on arrival here. In addition, my Department's DVOs situated in Border areas carry out additional testing measures on herds in these regions as deemed necessary. As Monaghan is geographically most at risk, a comprehensive plan has been put in place involving some additional testing in selected areas and in selected high-risk herds in that county. I should point out also that any additional testing requirements imposed on farmers is funded by my Department. Furthermore, any animals that disclose high readings following a test are removed and farmers compensated under the on Farm Market Valuation scheme. Given the importance of controlling the risk of spread of the disease to their herds, clearly the on-going cooperation of farmers with recommendations and advice delivered by my Department's veterinary service is important in the context of maintaining Ireland's Official Brucellosis Free status.
There are on-going contacts between officials from my Department and their counterparts in DARD in connection with the Brucellosis situation there. My officials will continue to monitor the Brucellosis levels in Northern Ireland and will keep in close contact both at local and central level with their colleagues in Northern Ireland.