The Irish live export of calves is becoming increasingly challenged, according the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.

Speaking during the IFA’s Sligo AGM on Monday night, the minister insisted that he would do all he could to “push back” against challenges to the export trade but warned they were growing.

“There’s lots of pressure, for example, from the Dutch government, where most of our calf exports would go,” the minister told farmers.

“The [Dutch] Government has taken the approach recently that they don’t agree with live exports and they’d like to see them discontinued altogether, even though the Dutch veal trade would be the most significant trading partner in Europe and also there’s significant pressure, as well, inside in the European Parliament, eg against live exports.”


The minister stated that it was very important that there was an outlet for calves born in spring.

“I’ll be doing all I can to push back against that, but that is a challenge that is growing,” he said.

The minister told the Dairy Forum on Wednesday that the glare of the microscope is on the sector more than even from NGOs who are intent on stopping the export of calves.

“As minister, I will resolutely and robustly defend this trade as it is a crucial aspect of the sector as we are best in class from farm levels right through to export,” he said.

Dutch media this week reported that the Netherlands’ outgoing agriculture minister Carola Schouten that she is not in favour of Ireland’s plan to fly calves to the country.

NieuwieOogst reported on Tuesday that Schouten was concerned about the additional stress factors for the calves, such as loading and unloading times and unknown noises, smells and movements associated with air traffic.

“In addition, she does not think air transport is a good idea from a climate point of view,” it reported.

Export numbers

Latest Department of Agriculture live export figures, for the week ending 14 March 2021, show a total of 10,278 calves have been exported to the Netherlands so far this year, second only to Spain at 13,504 and way out in front of third-placed Northern Ireland at 3,269.