The calf trade will kick off in earnest over the next fortnight, but the early indications are that prices will hold at similar levels to last year.

Friesian bull calves in Bandon Mart have been selling from €60 to €65/head for lighter calves to an average of €140/head for heavier stock.

“Eighty-kilogramme calves are generally averaging around €140, with 60kg calves making €60 to €65/head,” mart manager Sean Dennehy said.

He said there was good local demand for Herefords and Angus calves, with very little differentiation in prices.

Strong Angus and Hereford bulls are making around €270/head, with heifers generally making €220 to €230/head.

Active shippers

While Dennehy said that the bulk of the calves have been bought to date by farmers, he said shippers were likely to become more active from this week.

“Some shippers have been buying all along, but they should be really kicking in fairly soon,” he said.

Dennehy maintained that the outlook on the calf export trade for the year ahead is very positive.

“The prospects for the export trade look good. The feedback from Spain and Holland are that buyers were very happy with the calves they bought last year,” he explained.

'Resist efforts to end exports'

Meanwhile, Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) president Pat McCormack urged the Irish Government to resist efforts to end the calf export trade.

He said the Department of Agriculture also needed to create an alternative outlet for calves from dairy herds by supporting a viable Dairy Beef Calf Scheme.

“We [ICMSA] believe that live calf exports and some form of dairy calf-to-beef can and should operate side by side; they are not mutually exclusive.

"It’s up to the Department to develop that dairy-beef option and that means investing the funding to at least the levels indicated already by the ICMSA,” McCormack said.

In other dairy sector news, an average of more than €2,000/head was paid at Corrin Mart on Friday during the clearance sale of 60 cows.

Sean Leahy of Corrin Mart said there was “serious competition” for the cows, with prices ranging from €1,300/head to €2,820/head.

However, he pointed out that more than 20 cows topped the €2,000/head mark, with the buyers coming from right across the east and south of the country.

“Most lads were buying three, four and five cows,” Leahy said.

“The top prices were paid for good fresh cows, with good EBIs and strong milk solids,” he said.