Building a good relationship with lairage operators in the French port of Cherbourg is crucial to secure additional capacity for the Irish dairy sector, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

IFA National Dairy Committee chairman Tom Phelan is currently in Cherbourg on a visit to two lairages in the area with representatives of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) and the Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS).

Commenting, Phelan said that the IFA has developed a good relationship and kept in touch with the two operators since he and IFA president Joe Healy visited Cherbourg on two occasions last spring.

The chairman said his aim was to see where the two owners are at in their businesses, and to assure them that increasing the capacity of their top-class facilities would be a viable business opportunity and a valuable service to the Irish dairy calf exporting sector in the coming spring.

“We got to know Mr. Pignet and the owners of Qualivia, the Drique family, when we visited last February, and have been in regular contact with them to keep them abreast of developments in the Irish dairy sector, which helped persuade the Driques to seek approval for a 400-calf capacity increase earlier this year,” Phelan said.

“We have also encouraged the operators to consider a further increase in capacity, without compromising best standards, in time for spring 2020.

“For a relatively small outlay, we believe an additional 800 calf spaces could be provided which would up weekly capacity by 18%.

At home, dairy farmers will continue to focus on best practice calf care from birth to produce fit and healthy calves whatever their outlet.

“We will also do our utmost to optimise the beef value of our animals. However, we will continue to need solid capacity, in top welfare conditions, to cater for the calves we will be exporting,” he concluded.