Live cattle exports surpass 92,000 head

Irish live cattle shipments have reached a three-year high as some 92,199 have been shipped from Ireland by live export since the beginning of the year.

This is an increase of 25,541 head on 2016 levels and 2,437 head on 2015 levels.

Figures from Bord Bia show that calf exports, standing at approximately 73,000 head, make up the majority of total shipments.

For the most part, Irish calves have been shipped to markets such as the Netherlands and Spain. Exports to these two destinations rest at 36,090 head and 26,540 head respectively.

In addition, almost 4,200 Irish calves have been shipped to Belgium – a market that was closed to Irish exporters in 2016.

Finished cattle and store exports up

Bord Bia figures also show that Irish shipments of store and finished cattle are also up on 2016 levels.

Finished cattle exports are up by 592 head or 6.1% to reach 10,265 head, while store cattle shipments have climbed 793 head or 24.2% above 2016 levels and currently sit at 4,064 head.

Source: Bord Bia

However, exports to Northern Ireland, a market traditionally associated with finished and store cattle acquisitions, continue to fall.

In total, some 8,896 Irish cattle have been shipped to Northern Ireland this year – a drop of 16.8% or 1,797 head on 2016 levels.

Much of this drop has occurred due to the introduction of Red Tractor labelling across the UK. This has limited the markets available for Irish-origin cattle slaughtered in Northern Irish and British plants.

Furthermore, figures from Bord Bia also show that weanling exports have jumped this year to reach 5,009 head – up 1,060 head (26.8%) on 2016 levels.

This increase can be directly linked to exports to Italy and Turkey, with exports to both destinations up substantially on last year.

Official figures show that some 7,593 head of Irish cattle have been shipped to Italy this year – the majority of which have been weanlings.

And, so far this year, two boat loads of Irish cattle – carrying a combined cargo of approximately 4,500 head – have left Irish shores for the Turkish market.

Export deals to Libya and Algeria

Pending live export deals with Libya and Algeria will help put a realistic base to Irish cattle prices, according to ICSA General Secretary Eddie Punch.

The Libyan contract is a done deal with a shipment of animals due to leave Ireland over the coming weeks. This will include bulls over 500kg.

“The Algerian contract has yet to be finalised. But it looks a definite possibility. And, of course, this is adding to the live export trade that is already taking place, where Turkey is concerned,” he said.

IFA National Livestock Chairman, Angus Woods, said the live export trade is buoyant with buying for shipping to Turkey, Libya and Algeria.

“This is putting a solid base in all categories of stock at the marts.”

It is very positive that another boat load of 3,000 cattle went to Turkey over a week ago, he said, and this is the first shipment by Purcell Bros for a contract for 20,000 cattle they secured for Turkey.

The Wicklow-based farmer added that he is confident that more Irish exporters will secure contracts for the Turkish market and the live trade will be active throughout the summer and into next autumn.