Calf export trade faces shipping bottleneck
Spring shipments could be halved to 40,000 calves due to lack of ferry and lairage capacity, warn exporters
Difficulties with ferry schedules and lairage capacity could significantly restrict calf exports this spring, industry sources have warned.
The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and senior officials at his department maintain that up to 80,000 calves a month will be exported from the end of March, but a leading shipper claimed exports from the Republic could be limited to around 45,000 calves a month.
With tens of thousands of calves starting to hit the ground on newly expanded dairy farms across the country, pressure will be mounting to secure an export outlet for as many Friesian bulls as possible.
Seamus Scallan of the Wicklow Calf Company claimed that the projected capacity to export 80,000 calves per month was totally overstated.
He pointed out that the new Irish Ferries ship, the WB Yeats, is due to operate on the Dublin-Cherbourg route from March 14 but will sail on the same days as the Stena Lines vessel from Rosslare.
Both ships will sail every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and are capable of carrying 12-13 calf transporters. As each truck carries over 300 calves, this gives a theoretical capacity of 7,200 calves per sailing or more than 20,000 calves per week.
However, Mr Scallan pointed out that EU regulations stipulate that the calves must be rested after the sailing. As the two lairages in Cherbourg take just 4,000 calves, this means a maximum of 13 trucks, with a total of 4,000 calves, will be allowed to leave Ireland for Cherbourg each day.
Given that both ferries sail on the same three days a week, calf exports out of Ireland will be restricted to 12,000 head per week.