Analysis: How many dairy calves have been shipped to Europe in 2019?

While calf exports in 2019 got off to a somewhat ‘shaky’ start, the number of dairy calves exported live out of the country is running just under 29,000 head (34%) above 2018 levels.

This is welcome news for the Irish beef industry as these calves will not be available for slaughter off Irish beef farms in approximately two year’s time.

The following analysis is based on Bórd Bia figures from January 1, 2019, up to and including the week ending April 14, 2019, and the corresponding period in 2018.

Up to this date, just over 113,000 dairy-origin calves have been exported – up from 84,285 head during the same period in 2018.

We can see that the destinations are:
  • Spain;
  • Netherlands;
  • Belgium;
  • Italy;
  • France;
  • Poland (a new destination for Irish dairy calves);
  • Northern Ireland.

The chief importers of Irish dairy calves are Spain and the Netherlands and these markets have seen some level of growth so far in 2019. The number of calves exported to Spain stands at 34,261 head – up from 31,454 head in 2018 (an increase of 2,807 head).

Moving to the Netherlands – a market which has witnessed excessive growth in 2019 – the number of calves shipped to this country amounts to 57,927 head. That’s up from 32,890 head in the corresponding period of 2018 – a massive jump of over 25,000 head.

To put this into perspective, across the entire year of 2018, just 48,646 calves were shipped to Holland, while the total number that made their way to Spain stood at just shy of 73,000 head.

Looking at Italy, the number of calves that were exported live to Italian shores stands at 9,375 head – an increase of 5,671 head when compared to the same period in 2018.

However, the French market has witnessed a decline. The total number of calves exported live to France so far this year amounts to 3,758 head – a decrease of 1,383 head.

The calf trade to Belgium has also recorded a decline. Supplies of these animals are down by 7,870 head, with the total calf count at 2,639 head. It stood at just over 10,500 head for the same period in 2018.

In addition, 1,558 calves (up from 586 head in 2018) have made the short journey north of the border to Northern Ireland.

As mentioned above the Polish market is a new destination for Irish dairy calves. Up to April 14, 3,516 calves have been exported to this European country.

Country-by-country calf export growth (week ending April 14, 2019):
  • Spain: 34,261 (+2,807 head or +9%);
  • Netherlands: 57,927 (+25,037 head or +76%);
  • Belgium: 2,639 (-7,870 head or -75%);
  • Italy: 9,375 (+5,671 head or +153%);
  • France: 3,758 (-1,383 head -26%);
  • Northern Ireland: 1,558 (+972 head or +166%);
  • Poland: 3,516 (+3,516 or 100%).

Other live cattle exports

The total number of cattle exported up to and including the week ending April 14, 2019, stood at 133,109 head, according to Bord Bia figures.

This is a 32,437 head (or 32%) increase on the number of cattle exported live during the same period in 2018.

However, as outlined above, of the 133,109 animals that have been exported, 113,239 are dairy calves.

However, there has been good news on the live cattle export front recently, with a number of boat loads of cattle destined for Turkey and Libya in the coming weeks.

The breakdown of each type of animal and the change from 2018 to 2019 is outlined in the table below.