Calf exports kicking off
Calf exports appear to be on the move with the numbers shipped hitting almost 1,200hd per week recently. This is the first sign of a lift in the trade which has been stagnant for the first two months of the year.
Higher feed costs on the Continent, which have eroded margins for veal producers, and keener competition for calves from local farmers have seen a massive fall-off in the trade so far this spring.
Exporters have paid up to €180/hd for good Friesian bulls recently but they have cautioned that these prices were not sustainable for the remainder of the season because of the pressure on Continental veal producers.
Shippers predict that the prices will match 2010 levels and forecast a steady trade in exports for the months ahead. However, it remains to be seen if they will be able to compete with farmer demand for stock.
After a 20-year record for calf exports in 2010, when 159,000hd were shipped, the start of 2011 has been extremely quiet. An average of just 175 calves per week was shipped during the first six weeks of the year. However, the trade came to life in week seven, with 1,177hd exported.
Calf exporter, Adam Buitelaar, said he was optimistic that the export trade was now opening up. He bought 800 calves last week and hopes to purchase 1,500 this week, with exports expected to grow steadily over the next month.
"In Holland milk powder has increased by €400-500/t and it is having a significant impact on production costs there which has affected the trade. I expect prices to farmers for calves to be around the same as last year," he said.