Why a lot more Friesian calves may go to Spain this year

The outlook for Irish dairy calf exports to Spain in 2015 is positive, according to Cecilia Ruiz, Madrid Office Manager for Bord Bia.

Ruiz says while Spain is a diverse and complex market in terms of beef production and is difficult to generalise, the live export of dairy calves in 2015 look positive.

She says this due to the cost of weanlings, and cereal prices’ fluctuations – while milk replacer costs have fallen. Ruiz says the last couple of years have seen a shift in livestock demand in Spain towards calves for pink veal production (<12 months), both for the domestic and Portuguese markets.

“Overall, operators report demand for lighter carcasses (two lines: 165kg carcase and 235kg carcase), as well as for lighter live weights of animals being shipped to North Africa,” she says.

According to Ruiz, the best trade for Irish stock is in 50kg to 65kg Friesian calves.

“For this type of animal, Ireland’s main competition comes from Spain, Germany, Eastern Europe and the UK/NI. Irish delivered prices for the stronger weights are currently the strongest in comparison with French, German and Spanish calves,” she says.

As a result, Ruiz says a new type of agent figure has emerged; the importer of 50kg calves that keeps them for 60-65 days, weans them and sells them to feedlots that are not prepared to feed milk.

Live exports, particularly of dairy male calves, will continue to play a role in the Irish cattle sector.

Total shipments were 13% higher in 2014 at 237,000 head. Within this, exports of calves jumped by 12% to 102,000 head, with Spain accounting for over 40,000 of the total.

The outlook for Irish exports to Spain in 2015 is positive as:

  • Spain is set to grow both beef and live exports;
  • Domestic demand is likely to increase due to signs of economic improvement;
  • Demand for calves <80kg is to remain strong and Irish calves perform well; and,
  • Bord Bia continues to actively look for new importers.

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