The total number of calves exported from the Republic of Ireland to date this year has increased by 21,600 calves, or 18% on the same time period last year, according to the latest data available on cattle exports.

Figures from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) show that as of May 29, this year, a total of 144,255 calves had been exported. In the same time period last year, 122,656 calves had been exported.

The number of weanlings exported to date is also up, by just under 1,300 head, with 10,460 weanlings exported as of May 29, this year.

While calf and weanling export numbers are both running ahead of last year, to date, the numbers of store and adult cattle being exported are running behind last year’s levels.

The number of store cattle exported this year is currently just over 1,000 head, or 7% behind last year, while the number of adult cattle exported is running over 5,300 head or 25% behind last year.

Live cattle exports by type as of May 29, 2020-2022:

Adult Cattle14,37820,97815,659+9%-25%
(Source DAFM)

2019 was a record year for calf exports with over 200,000 calves exported from Ireland in total. Challenges in 2020, partially due to Covid-19, saw the total number of calves exported fall to just under 144,000 head.

While the number of calves being exported has started to recover since the drop-off in 2020, exporters have warned that the sector is facing major challenges and most calf exporters would agree that unless DAFM moves to implement a national Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) control programme, cattle export markets could be curtailed significantly in future years.

Market destinations

The table below shows the market destinations of Irish cattle so far this year.

Live cattle exports by destination as of May 29, 2020-2022:

Northern Ireland17,67735,56419,167-46%
Great Britain2,1861,4781,654+12%
(Source DAFM)

As the table above indicates, the number of cattle exported to Northern Ireland has fallen 46% on last year. The drop in the number of adult cattle exported can be attributed to this as northern buyers were more active for finished cattle and cows last year.

However, tight supplies of finished livestock in Northern Ireland in the second half of this year could see more northern cattle buyers sourcing livestock from southern marts.

And, while Spain was the largest buyer of Irish calves last year, total cattle exports to the country this year are back 18%.

In contrast to these drops, the number of cattle exported to the Netherlands has more than doubled and the rise in calf exports can be attributed to this.

Furthermore, market analysis from Bord Bia has indicated that the increased numbers of yearlings available on farms has led to strong exports to non-EU countries.

It is also worth mentioning that the number of calves exported are also high considering the sailing setbacks faced by Irish exporters this spring.