Calf exports have been slower than usual this year, but have ramped up over the last fortnight.

Data from Bord Bia shows a total of 31,901 calves have been exported over the first 10 weeks of 2024.

The bulk of those have come in the last two weeks, with 13,875 being exported.

Factors such as cows calving later and teething issues with calf registrations for the National Genomics Programme, joined the perennial issue of difficult sailing weather to limit supply, according to Bord Bia’s Seamus McMenamin. Limited capacity on ferries due to maintenance and increased demand for spaces from non-livestock transport vehicles since Brexit have also slowed the flow of calves to the continent.

“Even if ferry capacity increased, lairage capacity in Cherbourg is a bigger issue,” he said.

The Netherlands and Spain remain the largest outlets for Irish calves and between them they have accounted for three quarters of the total number of calves exported so far.

However, both markets are well back compared to the same time last year.

Traditionally the largest export market for Irish calves, in the first 10 weeks of 2023 the Dutch imported 58,723 calves from Ireland, 64% more than this year.

McMenamin said this has been a slower market to get going this year, but has really got in gear since the start of March.


Coupled with the number of Friesian bulls falling by 4% to 29% of calves traded last week, this led to improvement in trade for Friesian bull calves.

Prices for those under three weeks of age increased by €8/head to €45/head this week, according to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) calf price database, while those between three and six weeks were up by €9/head to €55/head.