Calves drive bumper first half for exports

The number of Irish cattle exported this year – up to the week ending September 22 – has already passed the yearly totals recorded in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Figures from Bord Bia show that some 206,922 cattle have been exported from Irish shores this year – up 30.3% or 48,114 head on the corresponding period in 2017 or 18,578 head above the total exported last year.

On the destinations detailed, Spain has been by far the biggest market for Irish cattle this year. Primarily an importer of calves, Spanish buyers bought 76,754 head of Irish cattle this year.

The Netherlands, another major purchaser of Irish calves, has imported over 47,000 cattle from Ireland – a climb of 14.4% or 5,944 head on the corresponding period in 2017.

Italy, Belgium and Northern Ireland are other markets of note, as they’ve taken 20,283 head, 13,432 head and 13,985 head of Irish cattle respectively.

However, exports to Northern Ireland – once a strong buyer of Irish store and finished cattle – have declined by 31.3% or 6,371 head this year when compared to the corresponding period in 2017.

Like Northern Ireland, a serious reduction has also been witnessed in the number of cattle that have been exported to Turkey this year – down 4,008 head or 23.7% on the same period last year.

Types of animals

Looking at the types of animals exported, calves accounted for 73% of all live cattle shipments from Ireland up to September 22 – totalling 151,175 head. In addition, when compared to the corresponding period in 2017, calf exports are up 50.8% or 50,956 head.

Looking at the figures in more detail, 66,807 calves were exported between January and March; activity peaked between April and June, when 76,413 calves were shipped; and, finally, some 7,955 calves left Irish shores during the third quarter of 2018.

Graph source: Bord Bia

Weanling (+2,240 head or +12.6%) and store (+1,811 head or +9.3%) exports have also increased, but finished cattle shipments have declined by 32.4% or 6,893 head.