Calf exports: Early days; small numbers beginning to move

Dairy calf exports are significantly behind this year in comparison to the same period as last year, according to Department of Agriculture figures; but it is very early days.

Up to the week ending February 9, some 1,810 dairy calves (between zero and six weeks) have been exported live from Ireland to European destinations; this represents a 2,757 head or a 60% decrease on 2019 figures.

This is no major concern, with numbers expected to increase significantly over the coming weeks. However, adverse weather conditions interrupted transport plans in recent days.

Also Read: Live exports to France held up until next week due to weather

Firstly, looking at the destinations so far for this year, the Netherlands and Spain have started importing Irish calves and are the chief buyers of Irish dairy-origin calves.

The number of dairy calves exported to Spain stands at 1,660 head, down from 2,820 calves in 2019 – a fall of 1,160 head.

Likewise, the number of dairy calves exported to the Netherlands – so far this year – has also fallen, from 1,149 head in 2019, to just 150 calves in the same period this year – a decrease of 87%.

Taking a look at last year’s European destinations, the Netherlands and Spain were the biggest importers of Irish calves, but Poland and Italy also proved popular destinations.

Regarding Poland, the number of dairy calves that were exported live to Polish shores – this time last year – reached 518 head. Similarly, the number of dairy calves exported to Italy was 80 head.

Country-by-country calf exports (up to the week ending February 9):
  • Netherlands: 151 (150 dairy and 1 beef);
  • Spain: 2,227 (1,660 dairy and 567 beef).

Older calves

Finally, taking a brief look at calves/weanlings between six weeks and six months-of-age, Spain has been the only importer of animals within this bracket so far this year.

A total of 511 head (211 beef and 300 dairy) have been imported up to the week ending February 9, 2020.

While during this period last year, Spain, Poland and Italy had imported relatively small numbers of this age group – standing at 841 head (212 beef and 629 dairy), 63 head (21 beef and 42 dairy) and 11 head (beef) respectively.