Live exports are currently running some 31,789 head behind the comparable period in 2019, Bord Bia figures show. While this is a substantial figure, a slight recovery has been witnessed in recent weeks.

The main reason for the lower numbers has been the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw reduced demand across our main export markets – particularly for veal and, as a result, dairy-bred calves.

However, the Spanish market – one of the chief importers of Irish calves – has continued to recover and exports are now just 9,396 head or 11% behind 2019 levels.

Despite this, the same can not be said for the Dutch market, with exports running over 41% lower than the same period in 2019. Exports to this country stand at 48,615 head – a decrease of 34,457 head.

Northern Ireland

Saying that, the biggest talking point when it comes to live exports has been the Northern Irish market and – to a somewhat lesser extent – the UK market.

Up until the week ending August 23, 39,531 animals had been moved north of the border – an increase of 18,634 head or a substantial 89% improvement on 2019 exports.

In fact, during that week, 1,459 head were exported to Northern Ireland – up from 276 head for the same week in 2019. The northern demand has been for finished animals destined for slaughter and cows and stores that require further feeding that have been sourced in marts south of the border.

In the UK market, live exports are running 20% ahead of last year, with 745 heading across the water so far in 2020.

The Italian market has also taken a reduced supply of animals this year, with exports to this country running at 17,454 – back 32% on 2019 totals.

While Irish live exports have declined, it is the calf category that contributes to this decrease. All other categories of stock – weanlings, stores and finished animals – have recorded an increase.