A contract, secured by Purcell Bros, to ship Irish weanlings to Turkey is having a positive impact on weanling sales in marts, according to the IFA’s Angus Woods.

Woods, the IFA National Livestock Chairman, said weanling buyers are very active.

The contract requires the gathering of approximately 20,000 bulls under 12 months of age, with the first boats expected to depart Irish shores in late April.

The Turkish market has grown in importance for Irish suckler farmers since the first boat load of Irish animals departed for the Middle-Eastern market back in the autumn of 2016.

Last year, Meath-based livestock exporter Viastar shipped more than 19,000 cattle to Turkey. The consignments included both finished and weanling bulls.

It is predicted that an additional 100,000 extra finished cattle will come on stream in 2017. Increased exports this year are necessary to reduce the likelihood of a further increase in cattle supplies occurring in 2018.

Woods added that calf exports continue to rise on a week-to-week basis – with some 8,278 of these being exported out of Ireland up to the week ending March 5.

Looking at destinations, Woods said 4,297 head of cattle went to the Netherlands, 3,086 to Spain, 893 to Northern Ireland, 833 to Belgium, 625 to Italy, 129 to Great Britain and 62 to Greece during that week.

In addition, he claimed that the IFA’s work towards reducing the charges on live calf exports, by €1,150 per load, was having a real impact in shifting numbers.

Live cattle exports up in 2017

Some 41,507 head of cattle have been exported from Ireland up to the week ending March 11, figures from Bord Bia show.

This is an increase of 34.4% or 10,626 head on the corresponding period in 2016.

An increase in exports to Spain and Holland, markets which predominately take Holstein Friesian bull calves, is the main reason for this climb.

Official figures show that some 17,334 head of Irish cattle have been shipped to the Netherlands this year, while exports to Spain are up by 29% to 12,274 head.

However, cattle exports to Northern Ireland continue to fall. 2,596 fewer animals crossed the border into Northern Ireland during the first 10 weeks of 2017.

In previous years, Northern Irish buyers had a big impact on the cattle trade in Ireland as many attended marts to secure stock for further feeding or slaughter.

But since the introduction of Red Tractor labelling in the UK this market has been in decline, as difficulties surround slaughtering Irish-origin cattle in UK plants.