Information on funding for scrapie testing for sheep moving to Northern Ireland

Defra has expanded the support offered under the Movement Assistance Scheme (MAS), which helps traders moving agri-food goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, to include funding for scrapie testing of sheep.

This extension follows a sustained lobbying effort from the NFU livestock and trade teams and is a win for any farmers moving sheep across to Northern Ireland.

The MAS was set up to help traders navigate and finance the new requirements which apply to agri-food goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland because of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The Northern Ireland Protocol has been in place since the end of the UK’s EU exit transition period on 31 December 2020.

♦ Read the latest information on the protocol here: UK government lays out proposals for future management of Northern Ireland Protocol

Funding for scrapie testing

Under the protocol, goods, including live animals, entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain are subject to certain controls including the requirement for goods to meet EU sanitary and phytosanitary controls. For sheep, this means that any animals moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland must be either part of the Scrapie Monitoring Scheme or must be genotype tested. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 breeding sheep move to Northern Ireland every year from Great Britain.

The government announcement confirms that, in line with requests from the NFU, since 1 July 2021 the cost of scrapie testing will be covered by MAS. The steps below set out how the reimbursement works:

  • If you wish to export sheep from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, you will need to book a scrapie genotype test with a vet for the animals intended to be moved.
  • The vet will then invoice Defra for the lab testing costs (approximately £30 per head) and up to £150 worth of veterinary fees related to the test (e.g. this could include travel time or time preparing the invoice). The cost of the test will be covered regardless of the result of the test.
  • Only those sheep who have genotypes that are not susceptible to scrapie will be able to travel to Northern Ireland. Those with the genotypes that are susceptible will not be able to travel but will not be subject to compulsory culling and the test will still be paid for under the scheme.

♦ For more information on the MAS, please visit: Movement Assistance Scheme: Get help with moving agrifood goods to Northern Ireland