There has been a further blow to calf exports as the French pension reform strikes, taking place this week, have led to the cancellation of some sailings between Ireland and France.

Stena Line confirmed to Agriland that sailings from Rosslare to Cherbourg, France, have been cancelled today (Tuesday, March 14) because of ongoing industrial action in France.

Typically calves, which are exported from Ireland, arrive in mainland Europe through the port of Cherbourg in France where they are unloaded at lairages to be fed and rested before they resume their journey to destination markets across Europe.

Agriland understands that 17 consignments of 5,100 calves in total, which were due to depart from Ireland to mainland Europe today, have been impacted by the cancellation of ferry services.

This is likely to have resulted in lower demand and reduced prices for export-type Friesian bull calves at marts across Ireland over the past few days.

It is understood that livestock sailings from Ireland to mainland Europe will return to normal later this week.

This week’s sailing cancellation comes after two companies which operate livestock shipping, including calves, from Ireland to Cherbourg, France, were forced last week to suspend services because of adverse weather conditions.

Met Éireann had previously advised that sea crossings from Ireland to France would remain unsettled through to the end of last week.

Irish calf buyers who supply to markets in mainland Europe were less active at marts around the country last week because they were conscious that weather conditions could potentially impact on shipping services.

Transport of Irish calves to mainland Europe returned to normal on Saturday (March 11).

Calf exports up 42%

Despite transport challenges over the past two weeks, calf exports from Ireland in the first nine weeks of this year have surpassed 45,000 head, according to latest figures from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

Calf export numbers are up by 42% or 13,200 head when compared to the same time period last year, and up 67% or 18,000 head on the same time period in 2021.

The table below shows live cattle exports by type in the first nine weeks of 2021, 2022 and 2023:

Adult cattle8,1747,9675,444-33%-32%
Source: DAFM

As the table above indicates, calves accounted for 75.6% of the 59,523 head of cattle exported in the first nine weeks of 2023.

Weanling exports to date are also up 41% or 2,000 head on the same time period last year and account for 11.8% of the cattle exported from Ireland in the first nine weeks of the year.