The number of cattle exported live in 2021 is currently running at 234,004 head up to the week ending 13 November 2021. This is a decrease of 11,439 head, or 4.7%, on 2020 levels.

While total numbers are running behind 2020 levels, the figure would still be seen as a positive given the year was slow to get going and numbers were running over 30,000 head behind 2020 levels at one stage.

Spain remains the main market - despite numbers exported there reducing by 6,415 head - accounting for exports of 71,531 head.

At this stage of 2020, live exports to Spain were running in excess of 20,000 above the next closest destination.

Significant increase

However ,there has been a significant increase in live exports to Northern Ireland in 2021, with exports of 67,075 head running 12,325 higher.

On a value basis, Northern Ireland is the primary market for exports in 2021 given that a significant number of animals exported there are slaughter-fit animals compared with calves and weanlings being the main animal types exported live to Spain.

The Dutch market is the third largest market on a per-head basis, accounting for live exports of 48,868 head to date in 2021.

This is in line with exports in 2020, with numbers marginally higher and 128 head more cattle exported. Live exports have comprised almost exclusively of calves.

Important market

Live exports to Italy totalling 27,184 head are running 6,819 head higher. The Italian market has traditionally been an important market for high value weanlings but in recent years there has been a higher number of calves and Aberdeen Angus cattle exported live.

The main destination contributing to a reduction in live exports in 2021 is a sharp drop off in exports to non-EU countries.

Live exports to Libya, at 4,928 head, are running 8,015 lower, while there has been no cattle exported live to Turkey in 2021 compared with 7,187 head in 2020.

The gap in live exports to Libya will be halved in the coming weeks with two consignments totalling in the region of over 4,000 bulls currently being put together and due to be exported in the coming weeks.