LMC Report: Sharp Increase In Cattle Imports

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - The livestock and meat commission reports a sharp increase in cattle imports from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) onto Northern Ireland (NI) farms in the first half of 2010.
calendar icon 8 October 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

One feature of the beef trade in recent years has been the lower numbers of cattle on the ground in Northern Ireland. Between 2005 and 2009 suckler cow numbers fell by 8.5 per cent and although numbers have stabilised this year, there are now 22,500 fewer suckler cows compared to 2005.

Beef-sired calf birth registrations have also been lower in recent years and while numbers have also appeared to stabilise this year, births in the first half of 2010 were 82 per cent of the equivalent figure in 2005. The tighter supply of beef bred animals has been tempered by an increase in the number of male cattle from the dairy herd. However, in overall terms, the availability of NI origin cattle has tightened considerably in recent years.

With numbers tightening, store and weanling prices have been very firm in NIand producers have turned to ROI sources where they may be able to procure cattle for finishing at lower prices. In the first half of 2010 there has been a sharp increase in the number of calves, weanlings and store cattle imported from ROI onto NI farms. Between January and July this year, over 44,000 head were imported from ROI. This is double the level of imports in the corresponding period last year while in the same period in 2008 only 8,400 head were imported onto NI farms from ROI.

It is worth pointing out that this substantial increase in imports was a trend which had been gathering pace since mid-2009, when import levels raced ahead of previous year’s levels. Between January and July 2010, the imports have been evenly split between males, females (over six months) and calves (under six months). A similar trend was evident in the first 7 months of 2009, with a larger proportion of males being imported in the second half of the year.

The increased level of live imports from the south is a reflection of the stronger export trade from ROI generally over the first half of 2010. Between January and June this year, total live exports from ROI were 44 per cent higher compared to the same period last year. Sources in ROI suggest that poorer finished prices in their domestic market were a key factor in this stronger live trade.

The increased availability of ROI origin cattle has been an important factor in maintaining a higher level of slaughterings in NI this year and the larger number of calves and weanlings imported this year will have an impact on slaughter numbers next year. However, the most recent figures show that this trade has ebbed off somewhat and a stronger euro has the potential to slow the trade down further. It remains to be seen how the trade will perform during the rest of 2010.

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