Dairy farmers need to change their mindset towards calves, Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) animal health chair TJ Maher told a west Cork IFA meeting in Clonakilty on Monday night.
"If your mindset is that a calf has to be gone out of my farm as quickly as possible and me spending as little as I can on them, you have a mindset problem, because the world has changed and if we don’t recognise that, we have a problem," he said.
"We have to start taking this seriously and as dairy farmers we cannot produce milk without a calf. You cannot produce milk with a licence going forward unless you produce a calf that’s saleable, well looked after and healthy.
"The vast majority of farmers do that, some don’t and that’s no longer acceptable and as a group of farmers we have to recognise that.”
He also urged farmers to consider those who buy and rear the beef calves from the dairy herd.
“They’re an important part of the bigger business picture and they need to be in a position to make money to continue too.”
Bandon Mart manager Seán Dennehy echoed Maher’s sentiments.
“The mindset has to change about calves. There’s responsibility on all involved to play their part because with the advent of social media, one small incident could be blown out of proportion.
"Farmers arrive into me and say that calf is costing me €2.40/day and I only got €50. My response is ‘the reason you have milk for the rest of the year is because your cows have calved and you owe an awful lot more to that calf than that calf owes you.”
Killarney-based calf exporter Mark Hallissey also spoke on the night about potential changes to journey times for unweaned calves.
“We’ve a 19-hour window to get calves to France to be fed and taken off trucks again. Now that is changing.
"In Holland, at the moment the Greens are bringing in a new law that calves can only stay on the lorry 11 hours.
"My opinion is that is going to happen here. My solution is an airplane to get the calves to out within an 11-hour window.”
He has previous experience of exporting calves by plane from Belgium, but the planes used are cargo planes and it takes a lot of time to load them.
“We need to have a proper livestock plane where you can back your truck up to the plane, load up your calves. We have a solution when the time comes," he said.
Estimating that it would cost in the region of €6m to €8m, he called on farmers through the co-ops to consider a contribution towards it.
“An exporter like myself, or even all the exporters in Ireland, if we got together wouldn’t be able to do that, so it’s probably down to the co-ops eventually to help us out in getting a plane together.”