The total number of cattle exported from Ireland in 2021, has fallen by 17% or over 50,500 head when compared to export figures from 2019.

According to Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects Report for 2021-2022, the high beef prices on the domestic market made it difficult for all types of Irish cattle to compete in key export markets.

While the number of cattle exported in 2021 is back on 2019 and 2020 levels, the overall value of live cattle exports increased strongly to total €157 million – an 18% increase from 2020 levels, according to Bord Bia.

Source: Bord Bia

As the chart above indicates, 2019 was a strong year for Irish cattle exports with over 200,000 calves exported in 2019 as opposed to just over 141,000 calves exported in 2021.

For the second consecutive year, Spain is the largest market for Irish calves, accounting for approximately 41% of total calf exports.

Interestingly, the report noted there has been a growing interest in beef-sired calves originating from the dairy herd in the Spanish market in recent years where they will be predominantly used for beef production.

These higher value beef-sired calves accounted for 60% of exports to the market during 2021, with the remaining 40% being predominantly dairy-sired male calves, according to the report.

The Netherlands was the second largest market for Irish calves in 2021, accounting for 36% of overall calf exports.

These calves are predominantly dairy male calves intended for veal production.

There was a strong increase in the number of store and adult livestock exported during 2021 and this was driven primarily by an increase in the number of cattle being exported to Northern Ireland.

The demand from Northern Ireland had a noticeable effect on the Irish beef trade in 2021, in particular, at cattle marts for forward and finished-type stock.