Live Exports 25 per cent Lower in 201222 January 2013
IRELAND – Live cattle export numbers are falling dramatically as 2012 figures of just over 160,000 represent a 50 per cent drop on 2010 figures.
Last year’s data also shows a live export drop of 25 per cent on 2011 shipments when 215,000 cattle were reported. Greatest numbers in recent years were the 340,000 head seen in 2010 when almost half were calves.
Exports of calves experienced the most dramatic decline in 2012, falling by 57 per cent to just over 38,000 head. Shipments of weanlings and store cattle were collectively 14 per cent lower than 2011.
Meat specialists at Bord Bia have blamed strong Irish calf prices leaving these animals less price-competitive that in previous years. Holstein-Friesian bull calves tended to average close to €190 per head last spring, up from €130 the previous year. This is believed to be partly due to including dairy farms rearing surplus calves to avoid going over-quota.
Principle destinations for Irish calves include the Netherlands and Belgium, although in 2012 these recorded declines of 56 per cent and 68 per cent, respectively, in the volumes exported. However, in most years demand from these markets ‘sets the base’ for calf prices here, with veal producers looking to source healthy young calves of between 2 and 5 weeks of age.
The Dutch veal sector is highly integrated, with production closely coordinated by the processors in order to meet specifications and to avoid a surplus of supply. The industry is highly export-focused, with up to 90 per cent of their production destined for markets such as Italy, Germany and France.
Overall, the Netherlands import up to 900,000 calves every year for veal production. We are likely to see some recovery in calf exports to that market, particularly if prices remain below last year’s levels.