A trial has taken place this week (October 17, 2023) where a consignment of Irish dairy-bred calves was exported to mainland Europe in a truck with on-board milk feeders.

The trial was facilitated by Wicklow Calf Company and Teagasc was conducting the research on the consignment of calves. Agriland was in attendance to see the new-concept livestock truck.

As part of the trial, a number of different aspects were measured before the calves left their destination and data from the calves will also be collected during transit and once the calves reach their new destination.

This data will then be disseminated and analysed by experts.

To facilitate the trial, calves had monitors attached to them and the inside of the truck also had monitors attached to measure variables such as noise and temperature.

The video below shows the calves being loaded and gives an overview of the truck.

The unit is owned by Paul Berghuis who brought the prototype over from Germany to facilitate the trial.

The trailer was built by German trailer manufacturer Finkel and has a number of interesting features including two steering axles at the rear.

The milk feeders on board the lorry can be dropped down when needed and the trailer also contains a water heater and a milk powder mixer as well as a pump for distribution.

Other teats are recessed into the body of the lorry to allow the floors to be raised and dropped as the calves are being loaded.

These teats can be moved into position once the trailer floors are in place. Pipes are then manually attached to the respective feeders as the calves in each pen of the truck are fed.

Before the trial consignment departed, there was a discussion between a number of stakeholders in the calf transport sector from both Ireland and across Europe.

There was an opinion among some of the European calf trade stakeholders that offering calves an electrolyte solution to drink during transit may be a better option than feeding milk during the transport.

However, it was agreed by all that science should lead the way and the findings of the research should be examined when determining best practice for calf management during transit.

There was a number of Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) representatives in attendance on the day including Wicklow IFA chair Tom Byrne and IFA presidential candidate Martin Stapleton.