Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Sharp lift in demand for calves across EU

Boom year predicted with enquiries at 20-year high

Martin Ryan

A boom year for the live export of calves to the continent is being predicted for this year, with demand from continental buyers reported to have hit a 20-year high.

Exporters confirm increased demand for Irish-born calves in Holland and Spain, with a significant breakthrough in Italy during last year set to further boost the trade in a major turnaround of the export market for calves.

Calf exports increased by 116pc last year to 123,451hd -- this the highest level of activity in 20 years. The Netherlands and Spain were the principal markets at 68,635hd and 24,469hd. Northern Ireland was the third largest outlet last year taking 7,737hd.

Exports peaked at more than 8,000hd/week in March, falling back to 3,000hd/week in June. However, the end-of-year exports held at an all-time high of 1,200hd/week.

Seamus Scallan, Wicklow Cattle Exporters, has confirmed strong forward demand from customers in Netherlands and Spain, increased demand in Italy for Irish Friesians and contracts with three new firms in Italy for Belgian Blues.

Carlow-based exporter, Adam Buitelaar, said market prospects remain very positive with veal markets returning €5/kg.

"I see the position very positive with veal at €5/kg, which is very good. The increase in cost of milk powder is effecting profitability in Holland where they feed 350kg milk powder/ calf compared to 25kg/calf in this country, but they find that the Irish calves do very well," Mr Buitelaar claimed.

Export markets are expected to return from €60/hd for small Holstein bulls and up to €125/hd for the better quality Friesian bulls.

Also Read

Friesian bulls between 14 and 35 days old will be worth between €90/hd and €120/hd, depending on the market for which each individual calf is suitable, Seamus Scallan explained.

"We have now opened up a new market for Friesian bull calves in Italy which is coming into play this year. It is good to have it given the competition in the calf market which is coming from the Eastern [European] countries," Mr Scallan said.

"We normally buy between 1,400 and 2,000 calves in the south of Ireland each week for the season and we also purchase calves in Britain. We try to buy a lot of the Friesian bull calves going to Holland direct from farmers, and get some of the stronger calves for Spain in the marts," he added.

"We can land calves from Britain easier than from Ireland, but the Dutch and Spanish customers prefer the calves that they get from Ireland and find that they thrive better.

"So I have certain customers who want the calves to come directly from the farms.

"I can take Friesian bulls, I can take Angus and Hereford heifers and bulls, Charolais calves and this year I will have a good market for the Belgian Blue bull calves in Italy where I have three companies taking calves," he explained.

However, Mr Buitelaar expressed concerns that cross-breeding with Jerseys would damage the trade.

"The first cross is fine, but some herds are now at 70pc Holstein and 30pc Jersey. The calves from these animals are hard to identify, but the continental buyers don't want any Jersey blood. The advice to farmers is -- no Jersey," he said.

Cork Marts Group exported around 10,000 calves last year and they expect that this total will be exceeded this year.

Tom McCarthy of Bandon Mart, one of the largest centres in the country for calf sales, said that the export trade through the group had helped to maintain a strong base under the calf prices and prospects for this year are very positive.

Irish Independent