Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has urged the live export sector to consider developing an additional lairage in Cherbourg, France, or engaging with the owners of existing facilities to explore the potential for additional capacity.
Last spring, low prices for bull calves were blamed on the supply of Irish calves exceeding the lairage capacity at Cherbourg in France, the first control point where EU regulations require Irish calves must be unloaded, and rested for 12 hours, before continuing to their destinations.
Calf exports are likely to reach record levels this year, despite the springtime Cherbourg lairage capacity issues.
But, with dairy cow numbers up 1.6%, the lairage capacity issue looms again, with the prospect of increased calf exports next spring.
French authorities approved an increase of the holding capacity of the Qualivia lairage in Cherbourg earlier this year. Mr Creed said his Department worked closely with the French authorities on this move, which provided for additional daily capacity for 400 animals, or 1,200 animals per week, based on ferry sailing schedules from Ireland last spring.
Lairage expansion is a matter for private industry, said Mr Creed.
Calf exporters had warned last spring there was capacity for only 10,500 calves a week in the two Cherbourg lairages, inadequate for Irish calf exports which could reach up to 20,000 per week in the spring.
Some calves selling for less than 50 cents last spring was blamed on lairage issues, and on Storm Gareth in March forcing ferry companies to cancel livestock bookings on some sailings to France, for animal welfare reasons, causing a backlog of animals for export.
Calf exports have risen from 102,000 in 2017 to 159,000 in 2018, and had reached 184,000 by mid-June this year.