Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Calf exports hit an all-time high

Martin Ryan

Weekly live exports of calves, weanlings and finished cattle have hit record levels.

Close to 15,000hd were exported from Ireland last week, Bord Bia figures confirm.

This was the highest weekly figure for almost 10 years. It was only marginally exceeded by a week in 2000, when two cattle boats took stock to Lebanon.

Joe Burke of Bord Bia pointed out that last week would have been the busiest in 20 years if the week in 2000 was excluded.

For the first 10 weeks of this year, live exports totalled nearly 69,500hd, which represents an increase of almost 75pc on the same period in 2008.

Exports of calves accounted for approximately 55pc of the total to-date. There has been firm demand for Irish calves in Holland, as well as from buyers in Spain and Belgium.

Exports of weanlings and store cattle collectively represent 27pc of the total. Within this, exports of high quality weanlings to Italy have been particularly strong, at over 11,000hd so far.

Forward or finished cattle make up 18pc of the total, with Northern Ireland and Britain the main destinations.

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Live exports of calves are booming. Seamus Scallan, of Wicklow Cattle Company, said he is exporting 300 calves a week.

"We have a market in Italy for good quality Friesians," he said.

"They are very interested in getting them and we are confident that it will continue to develop for the season because they like what they are getting.


Mr Scallan said his company was now exporting to Holland, Italy, Spain and Belgium, and sending some coloured calves to Britain. He said other exporters were equally busy, which was creating a good market for farmers' calves.

Mr Scallan predicted that calf prices would remain relatively stable for the season.

Mart managers report big numbers of calves going through the sales rings this spring, as dairy farmers look to offload bulls.

There were 1,200 calves on offer at Bandon Mart last week compared with 950 last year. Friesian bulls sold for €80-120/hd in general, while quality Friesians made up to €160/hd. Continental breed bulls ranged from €250-420/hd.

A total of 27,674 calves were exported for January and February compared with 15,037 in 2009. The numbers exported peaked for the final week in February at 9,160hd, the highest figure recorded for calf shippings.

Most of the calves were destined for the Netherlands (4,464), with a further 2,483hd going to Belgium, 1,809hd bought by Spanish customers and 285 going to Italy.

Irish Independent