An extra 3,600 spaces per week have been confirmed for Irish calf exports to France, but the news comes as animal rights groups join forces to challenge the legality of the whole process.
The IFA welcomed the official confirmation that Pignet's, the smaller of the two lairage facilities in Cherbourg, has been officially approved from next week to receive an extra 1,200 calves per sailing (3,600 per week).
This will increase the total weekly capacity in Cherbourg to 16,800 per week.
"IFA's ongoing contact with Pignet's and Qualivia over the last 13 months, our practical support, encouragement, and the help we provided in liaising between the French and Irish veterinary authorities and the operators themselves have been instrumental in securing a total of 1,600 extra spaces (4,800 calves per week) in the last year between the two facilities (400 more in 2019 at Qualivia, and 1,200 extra this week at Pignet's)," said IFA national dairy chairman Tom Phelan.
"Weather permitting, three sailings a week take place with two ships between Dublin/Rosslare and Cherbourg - from next week, they will have an effective capacity of 16,800 calves per week when all sailings can depart.
"This is a positive development which will effectively cater for peak, and minimise capacity pressure when storms prevent some sailings."
However, the export of calves to continental Europe has come under a new attack by animal rights groups. In what will be seen as a concerning development by the Irish livestock sector, a letter was sent to Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, by three animal rights groups, calling into question the legality of live exports.
Compassion in World Farming, Ethical Farming Ireland and Eyes on Animals claimed that Ireland's export of unweaned calves to continental Europe is in breach of EU regulations on the protection of animals during transport.
They also say calves exported from Ireland may be on a truck for some five hours before the ferry departs.
"This time includes loading onto the truck, the journey to the port, and waiting at the port before the truck embarks on the ferry.
"Moreover, it may be around three hours before loading onto the truck since the calves were last fed," they claimed.
The groups also claimed in the letter that calves may go for 24 hours or more without feed (which in the case of unweaned calves is milk replacer) between the last feed before loading at the start of the journey and receiving feed at the lairage near Cherbourg.
They have requested Irish officals to stop approving journey logs for the transport of unweaned calves to continental Europe.