LMC Report: Increased Calf Exports To Europe

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - Over the last year, Northern Irish exports of calves and weanlings to the continent have been on the increase with Spain the key destination in 2010. In 2010 some new live trade routes were opened up for NI with several shipments of calves to Hungary at the tail end of the year.
calendar icon 8 April 2011
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In 2010 almost 16,000 cattle were exported from NI to mainland Europe. This represents a significant increase from 2009 when only 7,000 head were exported to countries outside Republic of Ireland and Great Britain.

Prior to 2009 the main destination for NI calf exports was Holland. However, following the discovery of bovine tuberculosis (TB) infected stock in a consignment of calf exports from GB, Dutch trade effectively became closed to all UK live cattle shipments, including cattle from NI despite the innocence of the local trade on this issue. The closure of the Dutch trade created a void on the export front and there were no cattle exported from NI to mainland Europe in late 2008 / early 2009. This coupled with increased male calf births out of the dairy herd led to larger numbers of these dairy bulls being retained and reared for local slaughter, pushing up local supplies of finished young bulls over the last year.

Young bull slaughter numbers remain high in NI, but the latest year-on-year figures show that they may be close to peaking and one driver of this is probably the recovery of calf exports to the continent over the last two years.

From April 2009, exports of calves to the continent have gradually increased with Spain becoming the main destination for NI stock. Last year almost 12,000 head (calves and weanlings) were exported to Spain from NI, double the 2009 figure. Italy was the second biggest importer of NI cattle on the continent in 2010, buying up almost 3,500 head, almost three times more than the figure for 2009. So far in 2011, numbers being shipped out of NI to the continent are continuing to grow relative to the same period in 2010. Provisional figures for the period between January and March 2011 show that around 3,650 cattle were exported to Spain from NI. This is 72 per cent higher than the equivalent period last year.

The newly developed trade to Hungary is also having an impact with over 1,400 calves and weanlings exported to the central European country from NIin the first three months of 2011. This trade was initiated in late 2010 with a shipment of almost 300 calves to Hungary in December.

Reports suggest that this Hungarian trade is linked to tight beef supplies and high prices in Turkey over the past six months. The Hungarians are one of a small number of countries permitted to export live cattle to Turkey and it is possible that this trade has created a void in their domestic market which is to a small extent being filled by NIexports in 2011. It is currently uncertain whether exports to Hungary will be sustained, however in the first quarter of 2011, this trade has contributed to a significant increase in NI exports to the continent.

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