After a slow start to the year, live exports of cattle have been trending above normal levels in recent months and surpassed numbers leaving the country live for the corresponding period in 2020.

The total number of cattle exported for the week ending 17 July 2021 was recorded at 192,633, an increase of 4,333 head.

For the first three to four months of 2021, calf exports were running well behind 2020 levels to the two main destinations of the Netherlands and Spain.

Dutch market

While exports to the Dutch market have broadly finished for 2021, the number of animals exported there has been recorded at 48,096 head.

This is only marginally behind the 2020 figure of 48,576 and represents an excellent recovery, given exports were running upwards of 10,000 head lower at a stage.

Spanish stats

The number of cattle exported live to Spain to date in 2021 is running at 62,459, a decrease of 2,512 head on 2020 levels.

In contrast to the Dutch market, live exports to Spain continue to run at a relatively high level and are likely to continue to do so, with the market active for reared calves and weanlings.

Higher performance

The two destinations which have underpinned the improved performance in 2021 are Northern Ireland and Italy.

The number of cattle exported live to Northern Ireland is running at 42,655, an increase of some 12,378 head or 40.9%, on 2020 levels.

Exports of cattle for direct slaughter are running at a steady level, while Northern Irish finishers have been much more active in mart sales for store cattle and top-quality cows.

Italian figures

Meanwhile, the number of cattle exported live to Italy at 23,081 head is running 6,713 higher than in 2020.

This has been driven by continued growth in live exports of calves, combined with live exports of Angus cattle and specialist orders of good-quality suckler-bred weanlings.

Notable changes

The other notable changes to date in 2021 include live exports to Belgium of 1,972 head running 2,099 lower, while the number of calves exported to France has halved in the last two years.

At 2,527 head, it is running 494 lower than the corresponding period in 2020.

Exports to non-EU countries are also significantly reduced at 7,634 head compared with 11,887 for the corresponding period in 2020.

This is being driven by exports to Libya falling by 2,708 head to 4,928, while there has been no exports to the Turkish market since the 2,910 head exported in 2020. Prospects for this market remain under pressure due to currency weakness.

There has been 500 cattle exported live to Kazakhstan, with these comprising mainly breeding animals.