Farm Ireland

Friday 20 July 2018

Calf exports under threat from lack of breeding data

Martin Ryan

Full breed information will have to be provided for all calves offered for sale in marts if the multi-million euro export market for Irish calves is to be protected, farmer representatives claimed this week.

Representatives of both ICMSA and IFA warned that the absence of accurate breed information risks doing serious damage to the live trade for calves from Ireland.

The identity of both sire and dam on the official ID card and full breed information at the point of sale is being called for as a matter of urgency.

Des Morrison, ICMSA beef chairman, said that the organisation was aware of serious concerns among export customers.

He said continental veal units were not getting the expected weight gains and he cited the increased use of Jersey crosses in the dairy herd as the main problem.

"The progeny of these dairy animals that are crossed to Angus bulls are almost impossible to identify at a young age and they are going out of the country as Angus crosses, but the buyers on the continent soon realise what they have because the stock are not performing," Mr Morrison said.

"Farmers have to accept the primary responsibility for this and I believe that the farm organisations and ICOS also have a role to play in protecting our vital export markets for calves," he added.

He suggested that in the short term farmers offering these calves at sales should voluntarily provide accurate breeding information to the auctioneer/mart, while arrangements are put in place to have both sire and dam shown on the official ID cards.

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Carcase weights

Veal unit managers claim they are getting carcase weights of 100-120kg, compared to the normal target weight of around 200kg. This is seriously undermining the profit margin of veal production from Irish calves and risks severely damaging the reputation of stock from this country.

Eddie Scanlan of the IFA livestock committee told a meeting of the Limerick IFA county executive that Holstein/Angus/Jersey crossing in the dairy herd was going to "destroy the beef sector" and ruin calf exports.

"Very shortly there will be nobody there to buy these calves. Then the industry will realise the problem when it is too late. Action needs to be taken now," Mr Scanlan maintained.

He called for the sire and dam to be shown on all ID cards for all calves.

More than 100,000 calves were exported in 2017, with the trade worth around €10m.

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