Farm Ireland

Thursday 14 December 2017

Live trade rises 250pc as shippers hunt calves

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Live exports rose sharply last month, with the numbers shipped abroad and sold to the North increasing by more than 250pc compared to last year.

The total number of cattle and calves exported by Saturday, February 6 was 18,758hd, which is up from 7,231hd for the same period last year.

Figures compiled by Bord Bia show a five-fold lift in exports to Britain. While just 198hd went across the Irish Sea during the first five weeks of last year, this year's figure is 1,101hd.

Cattle movements to the North are also well up. The total number of cattle sold across the border was 5,450hd, up from 2,144hd last year.

Exports to the continent have followed a similar trend. The number of cattle and calves sold to Belgium during the period in question was 1,285hd; this compares to just 265hd last year.

Exports to Netherlands performed even better, with the numbers shipped for the first five weeks of the year hitting 3,779hd, compared to just 281hd 12 months ago.

Live sales to Italy are also well up, with the total numbers shipped increasing from 2,530hd to 5,178hd.

Exports have increased across all categories of stock. The number of shipped weanlings rose from 2,869hd last year to 5,440hd over the first five weeks of this year. Export sales of store cattle went from 960hd to 2,362hd.

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However, it is the calf trade which is particularly buoyant. The number shipped quadrupled last month as total exports went up from 1,551hd for the first five weeks last year to 6,280hd this year.

The lift in calve exports is reflected in the increased level of activity in the Dutch and Belgian markets.

It also backs up anecdotal evidence from dairy farmers, who report far stronger interest for calves this year.

Live shippers are canvassing calves from dairy herds, with many milk suppliers receiving visits from two and three different operators.

Gerald Quain, from Colmanswell in south Limerick, said that he has been visited by two shippers, although the dairy farmer usually finishes his British Friesian bull calves and had not sold to exporters before.

Mr Quain said he gave the names of 10 local dairy farmers to the shippers and all of them received visits and enquiries about stock.

The severe penalties imposed on Friesian cattle under the new grid system and improved prices from shippers are driving the calf export trade.

Mr Quain claimed that exporters had paid up to €115/hd for two-week-old Holstein bull calves. The same calves would have made just €60/hd last year.

Irish Independent