There has been a massive jump in the number of cattle exported from Ireland by live export means in 2017.

Figures from Bord Bia show that some 116,061 head of cattle have been exported from Ireland this year – a climb of 43.1% or 34,961 head on 2016 levels.

Calf exports continue to lead the way, with shipments to markets such as Spain and the Netherlands up considerably on this time last year.

Up to the week ending May 20, some 39,834 calves were exported to Spain and 34,363 have been shipped to the Netherlands. This puts exports to both countries up by 14,303 head (+56%) and 9,669 head (+39%) respectively.

In addition, shipments to Turkey and Libya have also given the market a much-needed boost. Three boatloads have been shipped to Turkey and a further boatload to Libya this year.

Furthermore, exporters have also been active buying muscled cattle for the Italian market. This market requires the top end of Irish weanlings and, already this year, exports to the Mediterranean state are up by 14.7% or 1,379 head on 2016 levels.

Source: Bord Bia

Exports to Northern Ireland drop

However, the number of Irish cattle exported to Northern Ireland continues to remain below last year’s levels.

So far this year, some 11,543 head of Irish cattle have crossed the border to Northern Ireland – a fall of 7.2% or 892 head on the quantity exported last year.

Much of this drop has occurred due to the introduction of Red Tractor labelling across the UK. This has limited the markets available for Irish-origin cattle slaughtered in Northern Irish and British plants.

Live exports are essential

A strong live export trade is essential for price competition and providing market outlets for livestock, according to the IFA’s Angus Woods.

The National Livestock Committee Chairman welcomed the strong commitment the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has shown to live exports.

It is essential that the government and the department have a positive policy towards the live export trade and ensure that it is regulated in a proper and practical way, which maximises its potential and fully protects the trade.

On international live exports, Woods said it was very encouraging to see designated live export ships regularly loading in Irish ports this spring.

The IFA worked hard in getting the Turkish market open for live exports, he said, and it was very positive to see boats sailing regularly.

These boats, he said, bring strong competition to the ringside in marts all across the country.

At present Purcell Brothers, which has a contract for 20,000 cattle to Turkey, has the Atlantic M on the seas with 3,000 bulls on board.

Last year, the Co. Meath based exporter Viastar shipped over 19,000 cattle to Turkey. The Limerick/Kerry based Hallissey group also sent a boat load to Turkey earlier this year, he added.