Farm Ireland

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Libyan live export market to put new floor to the trade

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

As dairy farmers increase cow numbers in anticipation of the post-quota era, the success of the Libyan live export trade will be crucial to keeping a floor under price for dairy culls and bull calves.

The Libyan live export trade is expected to underpin the trade for Friesian bull calves and stores, with the potential to take up to 2,000hd per week of lower-grade dairy-type bulls weighing around 300-450kg. Prices are set to start from €1.50/kg, depending on the grade.

This year has a seen a massive 59pc fall in the number of Friesian bull calves exported for veal to the Netherlands as domestic calf prices soared.

In 2011, some 34,492 calves were shipped to Holland between January and mid-July. However, this has fallen to just 14,135 calves during the same period this year.

The almost two-thirds fall in veal calf exports was simply a matter of Irish prices being too high for exporters, said Joe Burke, beef analyst with Bord Bia.

Good quality Friesian bull calves for sale in Kanturk mart last spring sold for €200-250/hd, while in Bandon mart, bull calves sold for €150-180 on average and up to €200/hd.

Calf exporters simply could not compete at those levels so Irish calves stayed at home, bought by farmers who could not pay high prices for beef-type calves.

However, with dairy cow numbers expected to increase, the export trade will be crucial to selling the numbers of calves coming from the dairy herd. Cull cow prices will also need a viable export market to prevent a fall.

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While mart managers describe 2012 as one of the best years ever for cull cow prices, the expected increase in the dairy herd will put a dampener on prices in the coming years.

"Up until the last few weeks, cull cows were making phenomenal prices," said Bandon mart manager Tom McCarthy. "Dry cows were making between €1,000 and €1,400/hd.

"That's incredible money for a cow at the end of her productive life.

"Looking forward, the Libyan market should help to put a floor under the price for cull cows.

"If cow numbers increase, the Libyan trade won't keep prices up at the levels they are now but it will help to keep them from going too low."


His comments were echoed by Ennis mart manager Martin McNamara, who maintained that cull cow prices were likely to fall from the 2012 highs of €1.70-1.80/kg as the number of cows increased.

Bord Bia's Joe Burke maintained that there was no reason to expect a massive drop in prices for beef as a result of the dairy expansion.

"We (Ireland) have plenty of customers and markets for our beef at the moment," he said. "But while Ireland is expected to increase numbers and production, most other countries have forecast a decline in production of 2-3pc next year. As well as European markets, we also have export opportunities in live cattle, carcasses and offal to markets in North Africa, Turkey, the Middle East and parts of Asia."

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