Dairy calf prices plummet as shipping backlog hits trade
Calf numbers jump at the marts but ferry capacity now limited to 48,000 calves a month
Prices for poor quality and younger calves out of the dairy herd have taken a major hit over the last week as difficulties in the shipping sector have intensified.
Mart managers report a very difficult trade for plain Friesian bulls, with prices falling back to between €10 and €25/hd.
Under €5-10/hd is being offered for small Jersey and Kiwi crosses, as there is little interest from farmers or shippers in these calves.
Shippers are generally paying from €25 to €100/hd depending on the calf and the outlet, but strong Friesian bulls and coloured calves are making more thanks to lively farmer demand. The latest drop in prices has been attributed to a surge in calf numbers in the marts and the continuing difficulties facing exporters.
Ferry disruptions over the weekend due to Storm Freya have exacerbated an already difficult situation and resulted in a backlog of calves for export.
Shippers maintain that the restriction in lairage capacity at Cherbourg is now proving a major impediment to trade as exports are limited to 12,000 head per week. Seamus Scallan of the Wicklow Calf Company was highly critical of Agriculture Minister Michael Creed for his "failure" to find a solution to the ongoing calf shipping problems.
"Minister Creed was told last October about the difficulties regarding the lairage capacity in Cherbourg," Mr Scallan said.
Senior officials at the Department of Agriculture and Minister Creed had claimed that up to 80,000 calves a month could be shipped this spring.