The 1,800 factory-weight bulls that were loaded on to a livestock carrier boat in late September arrived in Turkey over the weekend.

The shipment took cattle weighing between 500kg and 600kg sourced from three feedlots. The animals were assembled and weighed on Monday 19 September at three yards in the northeast, including Ardee Mart, and went straight for boarding on to the Atlantic M specialist livestock carrier.

It will take about 10 days for the boat to return to Ireland. The carrier is then booked to take up to 15,000 of our bull weanlings to Turkey before the end of the year. Livestock exporter Viastar, which is planning to export the bull weanlings, is also arranging for a second specialist livestock boat to join the Atlantic M on this route.

Turkish beef price

The Turkish beef price of approximately €8/kg is being driven at present by demand outstripping supply. The intense pressure on supplies is evident in the Turkish authorities waiving their previous specification that bulls had to be less than an average of 300kg liveweight and no more than 330kg liveweight on arrival. The maximum weight limit for these feeder animals is now 350kg.

The first consignment was mainly heavy bulls, with Department figures showing 1,640 bulls aged between 12 and 21 months of age, 33 bulls above 21 months of age and just 21 in the three- to 12-month age category.

The beef trade in Turkey is in stark contrast to Ireland, where supply and demand is finely balanced. Factories have reduced prices by 10c/kg to 15c/kg in recent weeks on the back of the weekly kill rising to 34,000 and recently exceeding 35,000 head. Current prices have stabilised, but at a low base of €3.70/kg to €3.75/kg for steers and €3.80/kg to €3.85/kg for heifers.

Positive development

IFA president Joe Healy said the live export of cattle to Turkey is a very positive development for the livestock sector and comes after a long, hard campaign by IFA to open the market.

"Turkey is a major opportunity for the Irish livestock sector and has an import requirement for up to 400,000 head of live cattle annually. In 2015 Turkey imported 380,000 head of cattle, the majority from South America and up to 120,000 from France," Healy said.

Darren Carty and Paul Mooney contributed reporting to this story

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Turkey to take 15,000 weanling bulls