A compulsory national IBR vaccination programme has been demanded by live exporters fearful of a crisis on foot of new disease restrictions on key Continental routes.
Roscommon exporter, Hubert Maxwell, claimed that the moves by Belgium and France to implement IBR eradication programmes had the potential to lock Ireland's €180m of live exports out of every country expect Britain.
"It is going to be more than serious for the country at large - not just farmers - unless immediate action is taken," he said.
Live exports have been rising strongly for the last three years, on the back of the 450,000 increase in the national herd.
Animal Health Ireland (AHI) is embarking on an economic study on IBR following the news this year that Belgium has secured Article 9 status from the EU Commission. This effectively blocks the transport of all animals through Belgium from regions without IBR eradication programmes.
Belgium has become an important staging post for calf exports to Holland, and exporters are already struggling to cope.
However, the expectation that France is about to follow Belgium's lead is the biggest threat to Irish exports, with nearly two thirds of the 243,000 head exported on the hoof from Ireland last year passing through the French port of Cherbourg.
Mr Maxwell believes that IBR vaccination should have been introduced when it was discussed five or six years ago.
"France is going to go the way of Belgium on IBR restrictions and will not allow Irish cattle through without being fully accredited, and other countries are going to follow.
"France is our only gateway to any market in Europe or beyond for live cattle. We are shipping to six counties at present and they all have to go through France," he said.
The exporter now believes that Ireland has no option other than to immediately undertake a national vaccination programme linked to EU farm payments.
"The Government say that agriculture is the backbone of the country, so the Department of Agriculture should foot the bill for vaccination for the first two years.
"It will have to be carried out in a way that it will be fully compulsory and a requirement under the Basic Payment System," he concluded.