Calf trade: Numbers steady with a slight increase in prices

The number of dairy calves presented for sale at marts across the country has steadied in recent days. With the peak now over, mart managers have reported an improvement in the trade; however, this depends on the type of calf.

Looking at prices, ‘black and white’ bull calves and lots suitable for export traded at €40-120/head over recent days.

Meanwhile, lighter, younger calves sold anywhere from €10/head to €40/head. Calves with Jersey genetics generally realised the lower of these prices.

Farmers also remained active at the ringside. When it came to Friesian bull calves, farmers were willing to pay anywhere from €110/head to €260/head to secure these lots. Again, these prices were dependent on the age of the calf and the degree of feeding undertaken prior to sale.


In addition, there has been a variation in the prices achieved by Hereford and Angus lots. The hammer fell on heifers at €150-310/head, while Angus and Hereford bulls traded at €120-410/head. Again, the lower prices were achieved by plainer calves, while top-quality types secured the highest prices.

Looking at continental bull calves, farmers paid prices of €350-440/head, while heifers generally made €235-300/head.

Calf exports increase

Looking at the latest statistics from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), some 1,080,873 calves were registered to dairy dams up to the week ending April 22. This is an increase of 32,640 head or 3% when compared with the same period in 2017.

In addition, figures from the Department of Agriculture show that some 84,284 calves left Irish shores so far this year.

Export growth has been witnessed in Spain and the Netherlands – two of the main markets for Irish calves. Up to April 15, some 31,454 calves were exported to Spain. This is an increase of 8,827 head or 39% on the corresponding period in 2017.

Furthermore, 32,890 live calves left Ireland bound for the Netherlands up to April 15 – an increase of 0.5% or 174 head compared to the same period last year.

As of April 15, some 10,509 calves were exported to Belgium. This is a massive increase of 6,894 head on 2017 levels.

Meanwhile, there has also been an increase in the total number of calves shipped to both France and Northern Ireland so far this year. Increases of of 3,773 head and 323 head have been witnessed respectively.