Farm Ireland

Monday 23 April 2018

TB rule changes to hit veal calf exports

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

A new Dutch ruling on the health of veal calves could have a big impact on the number of Irish dairy calves exported to Holland in the future, a leading calf exporter has warned.

Dutch trade body SKV has said it will only approve veal produced from calves that are shipped from Ireland directly to the farm where they will be slaughtered.

The move is linked to claims by Holland that TB was detected in four Irish calves, which resulted in the closure of up to 40 farms for testing.

Irish calves destined for rose veal are typically sent to 'starter' farms for several weeks before they are moved onto finishing units as many of the latter farms do not have rearing facilities for young calves.

The new ruling will reduce the number of Dutch holdings equipped to take Irish calves, resulting in a lack of competition and a potential price fall.

Irish calf exporter Adam Buitelaar said that while the new ruling was not being imposed by law, SKV approval carried enormous weight and was seen as essential for veal trade in Holland.

Mr Buitelaar described the new ruling as "outrageous", given that Ireland's incidence of TB has never been so low.

"Our Department of Agriculture must fight the case for Irish calves," he insisted. "This could potentially give a bad impression of all Irish exports."

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ICMSA beef chairman Michael Guinan said both Bord Bia and the Department had downplayed the significance of any such Dutch import restrictions.

However, he argued that the ICMSA was still of the opinion that the restrictions -- and the fears behind them -- would have to be addressed and dispelled as quickly as possible.

Exporter Mr Biutelaar estimated that the number of Irish dairy calves exported this year could fall by 50pc, due to a combination of the Dutch ruling and high prices here.

Irish calves have been some of the most expensive calves in Europe in recent months, making them unattractive to European buyers.

Last year, 34,492 calves were exported from Ireland to Holland, with a further 26,297 sent to neighbouring Belgium.

The most recent figures available from Bord Bia show that calf exports so far this year are very low. Just six calves were exported in the first six weeks of 2012, compared to 2,229 in the same period last year and no calves were exported to the Netherlands, compared to 407 last year.

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