Imports Of Cattle To Farms Outnumber Exports

NORTHERN IRELAND,UK - The Northern Irish (NI) Meat and Livestock Commission looks at imports and exports of cattle in and out of NI onto farms for further feeding.
calendar icon 12 February 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

At this stage, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has not finalised their figures on store and breeding cattle imports and exports for 2009. However, given that the industry is keen to establish the likely availability of cattle in 2010 and beyond, it is valuable to provide a summary of the available figures at this stage. The charts below show data on the trade of breeding and store cattle in the first 11 months of the year from 2006 to 2009.

Figure 1, shows developments in the last four years in imports and exports of breeding and store cattle in and out of NI. The trend that is most obvious from the chart below is that store and breeding cattle imports from ROI have increased sharply in 2009. This is notable because sterling has been so weak in 2009 and this meant that the NI farmer had less buying power in the southern marts. However, with tight availability and stronger finished prices in NI, this trade amounted to over 43,000 head in the first 11 months of 2009, more than double the trade in 2008.

One factor that may interrupt this trade in 2010 is the new NI pricing grid which was introduced in late October / early November. This pricing grid was based on a specification for finished cattle and one aspect of the criteria pertains to country of birth. Most of the NI plants now regard ROI born cattle as “out of spec” and as such these cattle do not attract the “in spec” bonus at finishing. With this specification in place, there is a possibility that the number of store cattle imported from ROI will reduce in 2010. There is some evidence to suggest that the new pricing grid has had an impact in the last few months. However, it remains to be seen whether this is a significant factor influencing farmers’ decisions to buy ROI stores in 2010.

Another trend that has been apparent in 2009 is the decline in the number of calves exported to the continent. Figure 1 clearly shows a decline in the number of cattle exported to other EU countries (outside GB and ROI) in 2008-09. This trade peaked in 2007 with a large number of calves exported to the Netherlands. In 2008, Dutch veal units implemented a voluntary ban on UK imports due to the importation of TB infected cattle from GB, and there was effectively no cattle exported from NI to the continent in the six month period between October 2008 and April 2009. In the month either side of this hiatus, the trade was at best sluggish.

It is important to note that the annual trend illustrated in Figure 1, disguises a recovery in this trade in recent months. Figure 2, shows how this export trade grew in the last quarter of 2009. In October and November exports of calves to continental Europe were just under 1,400 head per month, levels not seen since June 2008. There are still no calves going to Holland, but exporters are tapping into markets in Italy and Spain and with more activity from these traders, this trade could grow further in 2010. With domestic young bull prices lower relative to 2009, producers may also be inclined to export calves rather than finish them in NI.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

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