Dairy farmers have been urged to feed young calves more milk before selling or the consequences could "destroy" the export trade, according to one of the leading live exporters.
David Scannell, manager of Wicklow Calf Company said that a noticeable deterioration in the quality of calves being offered on the market is a "serious concern" because of the possible implications for exports.
"Some farmers are doing an excellent job," he said "and we are paying a premium price for the good calves, but the Friesian bulls need to be fed cow's milk, and with the price this year they are not getting enough."
He urged farmers to realise the importance of the export trade as customers can source supplies from other countries.
Calves destined for Holland should be around 50kg, with those bound for Spain at 55-65kg. He warned those selling calves "at 10 days are not clever" as the animals have to be kept for at least four days before shipping.
"We don't want the young calves that are not properly fed because they won't travel well. We don't buy them and it is the farmers that are losing," he added, stressing the necessity for consciousness of the market requirements.
He said that the best calves are now coming off farms in the upper regions of the country and too many across the south are coming from crossings of Holstein-Jersey-Angus on dairy farms.