With live exporters seeking cattle to ship to Libya at the moment, ICSA Beef Chairman Edmond Phelan has said that many more boats will be required to deal with the substantial increase in cattle forecast for 2017.

He said that the Libyans are looking for bulls, with a wide range of weights, ranging from 400-700kg liveweight.

“While they have a preference for beef breeds, they are also looking at Friesian cattle. A good market for heavier bulls is very desirable.

“However, according to Bord Bia forecasts at the Beef Roundtable there is potentially an extra 200,000 cattle for slaughter in 2017 compared to 2015.”

Phelan said that the country is sleepwalking into trouble with these figures unless we get a huge upturn in live shipping.

“We can see the disastrous effect an extra 65,000 cattle throughput this year has had, this is going to be multiplied by three next year.

“Already we have seen how the average weekly kill this back-end has been some 4,000 cattle a week higher than the equivalent weekly kill in 2015.”

To put it in context, we would need a boat, carrying 4,000 head, going out every single week in 2017 to bring markets back into balance.

Phelan also said that we have to question what the strategy is to deal with all the extra dairy calves, mostly Holstein but with increasing Jersey and Kiwi Cross genetics that are coming onto the market.

“Either we export them as veal or find some other way of getting out of them but there is no doubt that they are a disaster for the livestock trade and for the viability of beef farming in this country,” he said.