The proposed nine-hour maximum journey time for unweaned animals could limit exports to European markets and cause problems for Irish farmers and exporters, Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher has said.

Kelleher was commenting after the European Commission published its long awaited revision of the 2005 animal transport regulation.

The MEP maintained that the new requirements contained in the Commission’s proposal on animal transport will be both problematic and costly for Irish farmers and exporters.

“First off, there are positives in this proposal. There is an acceptance that time spent at sea should not be counted in any maximum journey time calculation.

"This is something that is massively important for Ireland as an island member state and that I fought to get [that] recognised in my work on the ANIT committee.

“However, I am concerned at the maximum journey time for unweaned calves being set at nine hours.

"The average journey time from the ferry port in Cherbourg to the major markets in the north of the Netherlands is approximately 12 to 13 hours," he said.

He added that while there is an ability to extend the journey time for an additional nine hours, it would require a massive overhaul of, and investment in, truck feeding technology to allow milk or milk replacer be fed to the animals.

Minimum age

“Additionally, the increase in the minimum age for transport from 14 days to 35 days will be problematic and expensive for farmers. "Additional labour costs will be incurred to ensure animal welfare on farm and extra housing will be needed to enable the animals to be kept on farm for the extra three weeks. New EU money will be required to support farmers - existing CAP money cannot be re-allocated.

“This is only the starting position. The European Parliament and the European Council will, in the new year, begin their own parallel deliberations, including amendments," he said.

Kelleher said he will be tabling amendments to find a more balanced approach on some of these issues.