Farm Ireland

Friday 17 November 2017

Next spring's calf exports under threat from Dutch truck regulations

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The crucial export of live calves to the Netherlands is set to be further hampered next spring on the back of new EU regulations.

Over 70,000 Irish calves went for live export last year, but that number is under threat from changes to different European countries' regulations around IBR and transport laws. 

It is understood the issues centre around changes in the interpretation of the European Union rules on animal transport in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands has been applying a particular interpretation to EU rules in relation to the approval of trucks carrying unweaned calves which is proving difficult for Irish live exporters to comply with.

Department of Agriculture officials are currently working with industry and the Dutch Authorities to come up with a workable technical or other solution to the issue.


The live cattle trade has proved more difficult in recent years due to the fact that Belgium has embarked on an IBR eradication programme; this imposes extra requirements on cattle being exported to Belgium from other Member States (such as Ireland) that are not IBR free. 

The Department says while the extra requirements can be complied with in relation to older cattle without too much difficulty, in practice the additional requirements make the export of young calves to Belgium unviable at present.

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Prior to the introduction of an IBR eradication programme in Belgium, Belgium had become a destination for a significant number of calves from Ireland. Most of the calves exported to Belgium from Ireland were subsequently re-exported to the Netherlands.

The Issues come on the back of the recent decision by Cork Marts to shut down its calf export business.

Cork Marts

Last year, it is understood that Cork Marts exported up to 20,000 head of calves. Spain received approximately 7,000 head and Holland approximately 12,000 head.

That is equivalent to a quarter of the export trade at the moment for live calves in Ireland.

In 2015, 85,500 live calves were exported. This year, the number dropped by 13,000 to 72,500.

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed has described that the withdrawal of Cork Co-operative Marts from that process as a ‘worry’.

“I confess I have spoken directly with its representatives and their view is that this is a market opportunity that will be taken up by others.

“I hope that is the case and others in that space should be looking at where the trade opportunity was and how they might fill the vacuum created by that departure,” he said recently.

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