A request has been made for the rules around calf TB testing to be changed to allow calves up to 120 days of age to be freely traded without the need for a test.

The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) called for the change, originally introduced as part of COVID-19 flexibilities, to be made permanent at a calf welfare group meeting with the Department of Agriculture.

“We have seen great improvements in calf welfare and quality of calves presented for sale in marts since the change in the TB testing regime, due to COVID restrictions, but when COVID has abated this exemption should be continued,” ICOS livestock and environmental services executive Ray Doyle said.

“With ongoing dairy herd expansion and the continuing trade of dairy=bred calves, it will be a positive development to continue with this exemption."


He said many farmers could expand their calf-rearing facilities to bring calves from the minimum trading age of 10 days right up to weaning at around 70 days and not have to test animals.

He said it would deliver benefits for both farmers and the animals.

“It may also be the catalyst to develop entire systems with the ability to handle larger numbers of calf-rearing units and to create business opportunities for existing and new farmers.”

Doyle said the exception to test calves within 42 days had supported a positive mart trade.

“We need to develop our future beef systems around the simplest and most economic use of dairy-bred calves, as their numbers continue to rise and measures must be created that promote a simpler and more streamlined trading of animals while also promoting best animal welfare,” he said.

Live exports

“Live shipping of calves has many impediments including pressure from NGOs, weather conditions and space on boats.

“All of these issues will translate into more and more calves needing to find farms within Ireland. We need to assist this growth in home trade as much as possible with practical measures.”