War over weanlings sees exports collapse
Farmers beating exporters for cattle on back of strong beef price
Weanling prices are running up to €200/hd higher than last year at marts across the country, relegating live exporters to second place at the mart ringside.
With farmers paying as high as €2.50-2.70/kg for bull and heifer weanlings, live export numbers have collapsed by nearly 100,000hd during the first half of this year.
Strong beef prices are continuing to drive the trade for all other cattle and mart managers report that cattle are selling faster than one lot per minute.
The latest Bord Bia figures show that total live exports to early July were 40pc lower than the same period last year, at 144,439hd.
Shipments of all categories of stock are substantially lower. Exports of weanlings and stores are down 38pc, exports of finished cattle are down 35pc and the number of calves exported is down by 42pc.
Exports to the main weanling markets of Italy and Spain are running 37pc and 46pc behind last year to date. While Irish beef prices are currently 15pc ahead of last year's levels, cattle prices in Italy and Spain have only risen by 4-5pc in the same period.
"At this stage of the year, we are unlikely to see a dramatic recovery in overall live exports," said Bord Bia's Joe Burke. Generally, more than two-thirds of the annual exports tend to occur during the first half of the year, during the calf season.
"Live exports in 2009 amounted to 290,000 and 2010 amounted to 345,000 but it looks like exports for 2011 could finish closer to 200,000," said Mr Burke.