On a recent beef webinar hosted by Joe Burke from Bord Bia, the topic of live export performance in 2021 was discussed, and this revealed that calf exports are standing behind 2020 levels by 6%.

These figures are accounted for up to the week ending April 17, and have shown that 86,969 head of calves have exited the Republic of Ireland this year.

Calf exports witnessed a fluctuating period during the year due to a cancellation in some sailings – although the market has recovered quite well.

The shipping of calves to the Netherlands has seen a reduction of 34%in comparison with the same period last year, and is finding it hard to recover to the same levels of exports witnessed back in 2019.

A major contributor for this set back is the closure of the food services and the reduced demand for the veal product.

Speaking with some calf exporters this year, they have stated that some Dutch farmers who would have traditionally sourced imported calves are now moving away from the sector – therefore further impacting demand.

Calf exports to Spain and Italy markets improve

On a positive note, the Spanish and Italian markets – which would be a classified as major calf importers – have seen a rise in Irish live imports by 23% and 77% (or by 7,266 head and 5,201 head), respectively.

Up to the week ending April 17, there has been 39,397 head of Irish cattle exported to the Spanish shores, while 11,971 head have entered Italy.

calf exports

Store and finished cattle compensate for calf export downturn

Joe Burke pointed out that even though calf exports have suffered a decline this year, that from an overall outlook on live exports, the total figure has more or less remained the same.

Taking into account that the store and finished cattle exports are ahead by 31% and 42% respectively, it is easy to see how the disappointing loss in calf exports can be alleviated slightly.

For any farmer studying the mart trade, it is easy for them to learn that it is the Northern Ireland customer driving force behind the exporting of these store and finished cattle.

The northern market is ahead this year so far by a staggering 125%, or 14,817 head. In total, there has been 26,695 head exported across the border.