Calf ex­port trade faces ship­ping bot­tle­neck

Tax is­sues and in­come fears the big­gest blocks to farm suc­ces­sion Spring ship­ments could be halved to 40,000 calves due to lack of ferry and lairage ca­pac­ity, warn ex­porters

Irish Independent - Farming - - FRONT PAGE - DE­CLAN O’BRIEN

DIF­FI­CUL­TIES with ferry sched­ules and lairage ca­pac­ity could sig­nif­i­cantly re­strict calf ex­ports this spring, in­dus­try sources have warned.

The Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture Michael Creed and se­nior of­fi­cials at his depart­ment main­tain that up to 80,000 calves a month will be ex­ported from the end of March, but a lead­ing ship­per claimed ex­ports from the Repub­lic could be lim­ited to around 45,000 calves a month.

With tens of thou­sands of calves start­ing to hit the ground on newly ex­panded dairy farms across the coun­try, pres­sure will be mount­ing to se­cure an ex­port out­let for as many Friesian bulls as pos­si­ble.

Sea­mus Scallan of the Wick­low Calf Com­pany claimed that the pro­jected ca­pac­ity to ex­port 80,000 calves per month was to­tally over­stated.

He pointed out that the new Ir­ish Fer­ries ship, the WB Yeats, is due to op­er­ate on the Dublin-Cher­bourg route from March 14 but will sail on the same days as the Stena Lines ves­sel from Ross­lare.

Both ships will sail ev­ery Tues­day, Thurs­day and Satur­day, and are ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing 12-13 calf trans­porters. As each truck car­ries over 300 calves, this gives a the­o­ret­i­cal ca­pac­ity of 7,200 calves per sail­ing or more than 20,000 calves per week.

How­ever, Mr Scallan pointed out that EU reg­u­la­tions stip­u­late that the calves must be rested af­ter the sail­ing. As the two lairages in Cher­bourg take just 4,000 calves, this means a max­i­mum of 13 trucks, with a to­tal of 4,000 calves, will be al­lowed to leave Ire­land for Cher­bourg each day.

Given that both fer­ries sail on the same three days a week, calf ex­ports out of Ire­land will be re­stricted to 12,000 head per week.

March and April are the busiest months for calf ex­ports, with around half of to­tal an­nual num­bers shipped overseas in this two-month pe­riod.

Reg­u­la­tions

Mr Scallan said that around 1,0001,500 of th­ese calves will be sourced in North­ern Ire­land, mean­ing that the to­tal num­ber of south­ern calves ex­ported each week could range from 10,500 to 11,000 head. This equates to 42,000-44,000 per month.

“The fact that both fer­ries are sail­ing on the same day means that the lairage ca­pac­ity in Cher­bourg is the main bot­tle­neck,” said Mr Scallan.

“EU reg­u­la­tions mean we have to rest the calves af­ter the sail­ing. And if we don’t have con­fir­ma­tion that we have a place in the Cher­bourg lairages, then we won’t be let on the ferry,” he added.

A sec­ond ex­porter, who de­clined to be named, also ex­pressed ex­treme con­cern and worry over the cur­rent sched­ul­ing and lairage ca­pac­ity is­sues.

It had been sug­gested that the Ir­ish Fer­ries ship WB Yeats would op­er­ate ev­ery sec­ond day from March 14, mean­ing that it would sail on al­ter­nate days to the Stena Line ferry out of Ross­lare on two weeks in ev­ery four.

This would dou­ble the calf ex­port ca­pac­ity on those weeks as there would be seven fer­ries land­ing in Cher­bourg on seven days — rather than six fer­ries on three days — and the lairage would be free to take the 13 calf trucks or 4,000 calves each day.

Such a sched­ule would have en­abled 28,000 calves to be ex­ported on two weeks of ev­ery month, with a fur­ther 12,000 shipped on each of the other two weeks. This gives a to­tal of 80,000 calves per month.

How­ever, in re­sponse to a num- ber of queries from the Farm­ing In­de­pen­dent, Ir­ish Fer­ries stressed that the WB Yeats is sched­uled to sail as per its web­site.

The on­line timetable has sail­ings sched­uled for ev­ery Tues­day, Thurs­day and Satur­day through March and April.

“The sail­ing sched­ule is on the web­site, so you can take any sail­ing dates listed as cor­rect,” said an Ir­ish Fer­ries spokesman.

He de­clined to com­ment on spec­u­la­tion Ir­ish Fer­ries are in dis­cus­sions to resched­ule sail­ings on the Dublin to Cher­bourg route to the al­ter­nate days from those op­er­ated by Stena Line’s ves­sel from Ross­lare to Cher­bourg.

Ire­land ex­ported 45,000 calves in March last year and 41,000 in April, with the bulk of th­ese go­ing to the Nether­lands and Spain.

Joe Burke of Bord Bia ex­plained that the num­bers shipped are likely to in­crease this year, given the con­tin­ued ex­pan­sion in the dairy herd and re­duced de­mand for calves from lo­cal farm­ers as a re­sult of the beef down­turn.

Calf num­bers com­ing through the sales rings are still small but they ex­pect a surge from the last week in Fe­bru­ary, mart man­agers re­port.

Ex­porters in­sist that some progress on ei­ther the lairage ca­pac­ity in Cher­bourg or the ferry sched­ules will have to be made by the end of this month when in­creased num­bers are shipped.

Standstill

Sea­mus Scallan said calves could start to se­ri­ously back-up in the sys­tem if th­ese prob­lems are not ad­dressed. “All we need is one week of bad weather and fer­ries not to sail,” he warned.

At the ICSA AGM, Mr Creed said the ex­port in­dus­try was “run- ning flat out to standstill be­cause of the growth in the dairy herd”.

He warned one “slip” could be calami­tous for the live ex­port trade and warned the very high­est stan­dards of an­i­mal wel­fare must be fol­lowed for ev­ery step of the jour­ney. Mr Creed said there was a “big prob­lem” ring­side with the breed of cow at calf sales.

“With­out full knowl­edge peo­ple are buy­ing a bit of a pig in a poke,” he said, adding they were look­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of DNA test­ing the calves to as­sure buy­ers.

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