Farm Ireland

Thursday 14 December 2017

Calf exports soar for fourth month in row

Martin Ryan

Calf exports hit record levels for the fourth consecutive month during April. Exports were up 52.5pc on last year, with 35,768hd shipped.

Holland remained the largest customer, taking 12,849hd.

Belgian buyers bought 7,920hd, while 3,826 calves were supplied to Italy, which has grown in importance as a market this year.

Northern Ireland has also emerged as a strengthening outlet. Cross-border sales for April amounted to 2,763hd, while 1,000 calves were sold to customers in France in the month.

A large percentage of the calves for export come from farms in the south and west. A total of 900 were on offer at Bandon Mart where manager Tom McCarthy said shipping calves were a "fine trade".

Friesian bulls ranged from €85/hd to €160/hd. There was also strong farmer trade for Hereford and Angus bulls which sold for up to €280/hd.

A top of €365/hd was paid for the very best continental bulls and up to €350/head for continental heifers. There was also a "good shipping trade" reported from Cahir, Co Tipperary where 220 calves were on offer. Friesian bulls made from €80 to €200/hd, while up to €360/hd was paid for fancy continentals.

The continued buoyancy in the export market has taken many by surprise. Industry sources point out that the total number of calves shipped in April is equivalent to total annual exports in leaner years.

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It is widely accepted that the flood of calf exports is directly related to the poor slaughter prices available for finished stock from the dairy herd.

A price difference of more than €500/hd has developed between Friesian and continental forward store cattle of similar weight at the marts this spring.

However, while farmers have been selling 400-500kg Friesian steers in the marts for as little as €80 under the €1/kg, Friesian calves have been making €80-120/hd for the export trade.

It is now widely accepted that the strong export trade for calves this year will have implications for the supply of finished cattle to slaughter plants by the back end of 2012.

Irish Independent