Why IBR legislation could hit Irish calf exports in the coming years

The possibility of the Netherlands achieving IBR Article 9 status could have a big impact on Irish calf exports, according to Teagasc’s Pearse Kelly.

IBR Article 9 status is achieved once a country’s IBR control programme receives official approval from the European Commission.

At present, authorities in the Netherlands are aiming to achieve such a status, and according to Kelly it will come into effect by 2018 at the latest.

Speaking at the recent Wicklow Calf Company open day, the Teagasc Head of Drystock said the introduction of such a measure could have a big impact on Irish calf exports to the Netherlands.

Worryingly, this is one of Ireland’s main calf export markets.

So far this year, figures from Bord Bia show, nearly 27,000 cattle were exported to the Netherlands, with calves making up the vast majority of these shipments.

Kelly also highlighted the impact IBR Article 9 status had on Irish calf exports in recent years, with shipments to Belgium falling from 30,000 to zero since the country’s control programme was approved in 2014.

He added that if Ireland wants to continue to export to countries with IBR Article 9 status, then Ireland must also obtain this status.

“This won’t just happen over night, it could take five years for Ireland to achieve this status.”

More calves to come on stream

Kelly also highlighted the changes that are predicted to occur in the number of calves being sourced for the dairy herd for beef production or export.

“In 2016, between 800,000-850,000 calves came from the beef herd for beef production, this figure is expected to reach 1m calves going to beef by 2020.

“The vast majority of these calves are going to stay in the country.”

Kelly said there are only two options available for these animals, there are the live export market or the home market.

“There is no other options for these calves.”

However, despite the increased availability of calves expected to come on stream in the coming years, he said farmers must budget carefully if they are considering operating a calf-to-beef system.

“The most important thing for calf-to-beef systems is making money and any number of factors could affect the profitability of these systems.

“There is no point in farmers buying calves if they are not profitable.”

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