Exports of cattle to Northern Ireland for finishing now down 90pc from peak

Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Supermarket specification demands have decimated the trade in live cattle to Northern Ireland with exports down almost 90pc from their peak in 2010.

According to latest figures from the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) in Northern Ireland, during November 2018 there were 440 male store cattle imported from the South for further production on Northern farms which takes the total for the year to date to 2,696 head.

The largest majority of these male cattle will undergo a period of finishing on Northern farms before being slaughtered in local plants.

This is a reduction from the 3,248 head imported during the corresponding period in 2017 and represents a 17pc reduction year on year.

The LMC figures show that level of trade for breeding and production has declined steadily over the last number of years from a record 25,115 male cattle imported during the first 11 months of 2010.

It highlights that the fall off is due to changes to retailer specifications for prime cattle that have been born, reared and slaughtered in the UK and has made marketing beef from mixed origin cattle much more difficult.

The LMC says it is for this reason that some processors in NI have significant penalties in place for non UK origin cattle.

While imports of male cattle have been under pressure in 2018 the number of female cattle imported from ROI has increased.

During November 2018 1,441 female cattle were imported by Northern Irish farmers taking the total for the year to date to 11,582 head.

This is a 17pc increase from the 9,843 female cattle imported during the same period in 2017 and the highest level of import recorded since 2015.

The LMC says a large proportion of these female cattle imported from South are likely to be dairy heifers and thus their mixed origin status is not an issue in the short term.

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