Live exporters have played down suggestions that changes to IBR regulations will hit calf exports to Belgium.
It is understood that Belgium is considering introducing 'Article 9' status for IBR, similar to Germany. Such a move could restrict Irish calf exports to Belgium as the adoption of these regulation would necessitate longer retention periods by exporters.
In 2014, Ireland sent 21,669 calves to Belgium. Under the new rules, calves would need to be vaccinated after two weeks of age and held for a further four to seven days depending on the vaccine, before they could be exported to Belgium. However, Seamus Scallan of Wicklow Livestock Exports, one of the largest Irish exporters of calves out of Ireland, maintained the IBR requirements would not do a significant amount of damage to the live trade for calves.
He pointed out that many of the calves exported from Ireland to Belgium were actually transferred on to Holland. "The regulations being talked about will impact on the export trade for calves but I do not believe that the effect on the overall trade will be significant for our trade and the change will not be a main issue for us in 2015," Mr Scallan said.
"The trade for calves going directly to Holland will not be affected. Calves which are exported to Belgium and sold on to other EU markets will require more professional certification under the requirements which are coming into place this year and this can result in a delay before getting to their final destination," he admitted.
Of the 101,600 calves exported in 2014 - an increase of 11,000 on the previous year - 34,288 went direct to Holland.
Calf exports to Belgium have been building up annually from 1,000 per annum a decade ago to a high of 33,271 in 2010.
However, Carlow-based exporter Adam Buitelaar predicted that the volume of calf exports to the Low Countries could be down this year because of the increased number of calves available from Germany.
He predicted that it would be St Patrick's Day before exports to Holland get going in earnest.