A critical factor for the beef sector is a strong live export trade for dairy calves, according to IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns.

Burns said that a strong live export trade is essential to maximise price competition and ensure a balance in cattle supplies relative to market demand in order to optimise prices and avoid the marketing problems which occurred in 2014.

He said given this is more important than ever,  the expansion of the dairy herd and the requirement to find a suitable market outlet for male calves, particularly considering the bull beef problems in 2014.

“The decisions farmers make regarding calves from the dairy herd this spring will be crucial in the years’ ahead. What happens this spring will have a significant impact for farmers selling cattle in two years’ time,” he said.

Burns said there are very strong opportunities for live exports in 2015 and IFA will work hard to drive this and maximise price competition.

Reduced milk powder costs should drive a strong demand from the veal calf market in Europe. In addition, he said three specialist boats have now been passed for international live exports and another boat is expected to be cleared very soon.

“This is very positive for the live trade for cattle to North Africa. Another positive factor is the reopening of the live trade to Turkey with recent shipments from France,” Burns said.

The IFA Livestock Chairman said a strong live trade will require a clear Government commitment and strong support from Minister Coveney and the Department of Agriculture.

“Minister Coveney must continue the work with retailers and others to remove the artificial barriers around labelling impeding the live trade to Northern Ireland and Great Britain,” he said.