Calf exports under threat from Brussels

Fears of an effective ban on UK calf exports are mounting, with EU vets due to meet in Brussels this afternoon (Wednesday) to consider their response to the fact British calves turned up in Holland with TB.

The Dutch trade and farming industry has been furious at the breakdown in bio-security, and last week demanded an export ban.

The EU Commission views the incident as a “one-off” and says it wants to find a more “proportionate” response.

Additional assurances

But the draft EU decision it has tabled, seen by FWi and due to be considered by the influential SCOFCAH committee on Wednesday (23 July), is still pretty onerous and could, if accepted, make calf exports impractical.

Specifically, the draft regulation says calf exports may continue from regions that are “TB-free”. Unfortunately, none of the UK meets this requirement.

Calf exports may also continue from parishes where the average TB incidence is less than 1%, so long as the farm of origin is TB-free.

In some parts of the country this low incidence rate may prevail, though in many TB areas, such as the south-west, it may be harder to achieve.

But the real killer in the proposal is that all animals on the holding of origin – including all youngstock and followers over six weeks old – must have been tested within a year for TB.

According to the NFU, this would make exporting calves unviable, as everytime a calf that was being retained on the farm reached six weeks old, exports would have to stop until such time as it was tested.

“Farms would have to test small numbers of calves on a regular basis, and on top of that would have their annual test,” said a spokesman.

Designated holding

According to the draft, calves being exported must go direct to a designated holding in the importing country, from where they must either go direct to slaughter, or be tested for bovine TB if going on to another fattening unit.

A UK government source in Brussels said this condition could be challenged by some member state vets, who may see it as too trade restrictive.

The SCOFCAH meeting starts at 3.00pm and is expected to run into the evening.