Calf exports in a positive position but shipments to the North slide
Calf exports appear to be in a positive position as some 5,643 head have been shipped out of Ireland up to the week ending February 18.
This is an increase of just over 1,200 head or 27.9% on the corresponding period in 2016, figures from the Department of Agriculture show.
The majority of these exports have been Holstein Friesian bull calves, which have been shipped to markets such as Spain and the Netherlands.
These markets are the main destinations for Irish calves and official figures show that shipments to Spain and Holland have increased by 44.3% and 80% respectively on 2016 levels.
Finished cattle exports fall
However, there has been a fall-off in the number of Irish store and finished cattle exports, with shipments of these animals back by 6.7% (80 head) and 37.4% (1,232 head) respectively.
In previous years, Northern Ireland and Britain had been major destinations for Irish finished cattle.
But, since Red Tractor labelling was introduced across the UK, there has been a considerable decline in the number of Irish cattle crossing the border for slaughter in Northern Irish plants.
This trend appears to have continued into the early stages of 2017, as the number of live cattle exported to Northern Ireland during the first seven weeks of the year is back by 2,450 head or 45.3% on 2016 levels.
But there has actually been a slight increase in the number of Irish cattle shipped to Britain this year, with exports up by 144 head or 30.8% on the corresponding seven-week period in 2016.
Last year, in the region of 23,000 Irish cattle were exported to Northern Ireland – a fall of over 50% from the 60,000 head exported in 2015.