A PROPOSAL to fly male dairy calves out of the country from Shannon has been proposed by the IFA to the Department of Agriculture.
IFA president Tim Cullinan first mooted the idea during last year’s presidential hustings where it was met with mixed reaction.
At the time the then-IFA livestock chairman Angus Woods said the idea wouldn’t work and that IFA had investigated the idea already.
"Export of cattle is not simple, anybody who thinks it is, is delusional," said Mr Woods. One farmer at the hustings described the idea as ‘ludicrous’. However, Cork dairy farmer and IFA presidential candidate hopeful John Coughlan backed Cullinan’s idea.
Now it’s understood Cullinan has raised the idea with Department of Agriculture officials in recent days as a possible way of dealing with young male calves from the dairy herd.
However, it’s understood new research by IFA found that it would cost around €30/head of calf to fly from Shannon, around double the cost of shipping calves via ferry to France.
Last year capacity at two French lairages allowed up to 16,800 calves per week to travel by ferry to France in March after February sailings were impacted by storms. This impacted calf prices in marts, with calves sold for as little as 50c each.
Calls by IFA last year to allow another facility in France be used for calves was deemed ‘reckless’ by the then-Minister, who said using the facility would add substantially to the journey time of calves.
Around 180,000 calves are exported every year and last year the practice of live exports of calves to France drew fierce criticism from animal welfare groups, with three groups writing to the Agriculture Minister last year 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.