The number of cattle exported from Ireland to the UK is down significantly this year compared to the same time in 2015, recent figures from Bord Bia show.

To the week ending April 9, Irish exporters shipped nearly 11,000 cattle to the UK, back by 39% on the first four months of 2015.

Figures from Bord Bia also show that live cattle exports to Britain and Northern Ireland have dropped by 64.5% and 34% respectively.

The UK is a significant market for Irish beef accounting for 52% of Irish beef exports in 2015, valued at almost €1.1 billion.

But, the live cattle export trade to the UK has been difficult since the start of the year, while the volume of beef exported to the UK dropped by 7.5% during the first two months of the year.

The drop in live exports follows a difficult first quarter for Irish exporters, as shipments to the UK fell by 10% between January and March on the corresponding period in 2015.

According to Bord Bia, the decline in live cattle exports to the UK has occurred due to a weaker Sterling and a lower UK cattle price.

It says that a weaker Sterling makes Irish cattle more expensive to UK buyers and, as a result they are focusing on purchasing domestically produced stock.

The British beef price has also declined this year, falling to its lowest level in five years.

In recent weeks the UK beef price has declined so much that R3 heifers slaughtered in the UK are now cheaper than Irish heifers.

Figures from the European Commission show that Irish R3 heifers made 400.4c/kg, while heifers slaughtered in the UK sold for 399.2c/kg. This means that a 300kg R3 heifer carcass is €3.60 dearer in Ireland than the UK.

It also shows that Northern Irish R3 heifers are also cheaper that Irish heifers, with a price difference of €45 between an Irish and a Northern Irish 300kg R3 heifer carcass.