Calf exports reach highest level in 3 years

The number of Irish calves exported so far this year has reached a three-year high, figures from Bord Bia show.

To the week ending March 19, some 38,874 calves were shipped from Ireland to markets such as Holland and Spain.

The majority of these calves were Holstein Friesian bulls, which are destined for veal production systems in both countries.

The quantity of calves exported from Ireland during the first 12 weeks of this year eclipses 2016 and 2015 levels by 12,989 head and 9,870 head respectively.

However, numbers have failed to reach 2014 levels when nearly 42,000 calves were exported from Irish shores.

Source: Bord Bia
Source: Bord Bia

Exports to Spain and Holland climb

Bord Bia figures also show that some 21,325 head of cattle have been exported to the Netherlands this year – an increase of 86.2% or 9,872 head on the previous year’s levels.

Shipments to Spain (15,349 head) are also up by 34.7% or 3,953 head on 2016 levels. The majority of animals shipped to both countries have been calves.

Dairy births up 4%

Some 1.047m calves have been registered on Irish farms this year (week ending March 24), figures from the ICBF show. This is a slight decrease (1,183 head) on the corresponding period in 2016.

However, the number of dairy calf registrations has actually increased with almost 20,000 more calves being registered so far this year.

Source: ICBF
Source: ICBF

Meanwhile, the number of beef births has declined by over 21,000 head or 9% on 2016 levels.

The fall in beef births may be due to a declining suckler herd, as figures from the CSO show that there were 11,200 fewer suckler cows in Ireland in December 2016 than the same month in 2015.

But, the Irish dairy cow herd actually increased in 2016, with an additional 55,300 cows coming into the system – an increase of 4.5% on December 2015 levels.

Given that a large portion of these cows are going to produce a calf this year, calf births on Irish dairy farms could increase once more in 2017.

Last year, an additional 47,570 calves were registered on Irish farms – with over 63% of these calves being registered as dairy births.