Live cattle exports are vital to both the Irish beef and dairy industries; moving cattle out of the country provides more competition at the ringside and when it comes to cattle available for slaughter.

While there is not a lot of positivity surrounding the Irish beef industry at present, there is some better news on the live export front.

Live exports up until June 1 this year were running over 45,750 head or 29% higher than in the corresponding period in 2018, data from Bórd Bia indicates.

But, while this is a significant increase on 2018 levels, it must be noted the biggest contributor to this growth was the number of calves – originating from the dairy herd – that were shipped to European countries.

Up to June 1, over 170,320 calves had been exported live from Ireland to European destinations; this represents a 36,693 head or 28% increase on 2018 figures.

As normal, the chief importers of Irish dairy calves have been Spain and the Netherlands and these markets have seen some level of growth so far in 2019.

Live exports cherbourg export

However, both the French and Belgian markets are back on 2018, but Italy and the relatively new Polish market have performed well.

While the number of calves exported live out of Ireland has increased, so too have all the other classes of cattle; weanlings, stores and finished cattle numbers have all increased in 2019.

The total number of cattle exported up to and including the week ending June 1, 2019, stood at 205,888 head.

The breakdown of each type of animal and the change from 2018 to 2019 is outlined in the table below.

Live cattle exports 2019:
  • Weanlings: 10,277 (+1,701 head or +19.8%);
  • Stores: 11,796 (+2,762 head or +30.6%);
  • Calves: 170,323 (+36,693 head or +27.5%);
  • Finished: 13,492 head (+4,602 head or +51.8%);
  • Total: 205,888 head (+45,758 or +28.6%).

These export markets are of vital importance to both the dairy and the beef industries. Preventing animals from entering the Irish beef production system will mean that they will not be available to finish and slaughter in Irish processing plants in the future.