Live exports must be targeted: ICMSA
Opportunities for live exports this spring must be targeted after a slump of almost 60,000 head last year, a farm body has said.
Following the Bord Bia Live Export seminar, ICMSA livestock chair Michael Guinan said there were indications of a potentially strong live export trade for calves this spring with decent prices achievable.
He said it was essential the Department of Agriculture and other bodies ensure that live exporters receive all the necessary support so "maximise the number of calves exported".
Mr Guinan pinpointed the Netherlands as one of the key markets for dairy calves - with over 800,000 imported annually including 41,000 from Ireland in 2015.
"There should be an opportunity to boost export levels to the Netherlands," he said, against a backdrop of an extra 120,000 dairy calves in 2015 and further growth expected this year.
However, exports have been hit this year partly due to IBR restrictions in place in countries like Belgium which are recognised at European Commission level as being officially free of the disease. It has meant stricter import conditions on countries such as Ireland.
With live exporters calling for a national IBR vaccination programme, Teagasc have already begun work on a cost benefit analysis of Ireland's IBR programme. Animal Health Ireland's group is considering a number of options for a national control programme.
The IFA's Kevin Kinsella said it was clear that Ireland needed an IBR programme to "keep our markets open". However, he said the programme at farm level must not "impose very significant or additions costs on farmers". The figures show live exports dropped from 236,896 in 2014 to 178,048 last year.