The number of Irish calves exported to the Netherlands is back 35% when compared to the same time last year.

Figures from Bord Bia show that by the end of quarter one, 33,058 calves had been exported to the Dutch market. This is significantly behind where it was in both 2023 and 2022, when about 50,500 calves were exported there from Ireland.

Overall, a total of 73,349 calves were shipped to the continent and exports are running 16% behind where they were at the same time in 2023.

Later calving and delayed registrations at farm level, increased demand for truck spaces on ferries combined with bad weather in February and early March resulted in a much slower start to calf sales to mainland Europe this spring.

There has been a marked improvement in conditions in the second half of March and over the last three weeks alone, 41,448 calves, 57% of the total to date, were exported.

While trade with the Netherlands is lagging behind where it usually is, the slack has been picked up by other countries.

The Spanish market has increased by 10% compared to 2023, with 24,056 calves going to Spain so far this year. Italy has increased its share of Irish calves by 21% but is a much smaller market, with 6,024 going there.

Two new markets within the EU have opened up with 2,499 calves going to Romania and 576 to Croatia.

Reductions have also been recorded to Poland, down 23% to 5,586 calves, while Northern Ireland, like the Dutch, saw a decline of 35% with 1,525 calves heading north so far this spring.