Irish live exports have seen a boost in the number of cattle moving across the border to Northern Ireland this year. So much so that the exports have risen by 80.3% so far in 2021, up to the week ending March 6, in comparison to the same period in 2020.

According to Bord Bia, a total of 14,079 head of cattle have been sent to Northern Ireland from the south up to the week ending March 6.

One of the main drivers behind this rise is the ease of purchasing cattle through the online trading platform. More northern customers are purchasing cattle in marts throughout the country and are putting a good floor under both the store and heavy cattle prices.

Overall in 2021, the number of live exports completed has reached 42,801 head – which is a rise of 18.1% or 6,501 head when compared to the same timeframe in 2020.


Following on from the northern exports, the next biggest importer of cattle this year has been the Dutch market. The Netherlands has imported a total of 8,333 cattle so far in 2021 – which would mainly consist of calves.

This market is still experiencing a deficit in Irish imports of 3,418 head or 29.1% in comparison to 2020. This has been attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of food services across Europe – ultimately impacting the veal market.

There has been increases in exports to Spain by 6,461 head, bringing the total figure of exports into the Spanish market to 14,130 head.

Again, another dominant calf importer – this market has taken some of the pressure off the calf exports, caused by the percentage loss of the Dutch market.

The Italian market has doubled its number of Irish imports in 2021 – when compared to the same period in 2020. The exports to this market have reached 4,280 head, which had previously been recorded as 2,091 head last year.

Examining the age categories of cattle exported, the store animal category has seen the largest increase, with 676 additional animals being moved. This has been buoyed by the significant increase in Northern Irish trade.

Up to the week ending March 6, Bord Bia reported that the live export of calves had also risen by 27.2% thus far in 2020. This category of exports has experianced some fluctuations in recent weeks due to the cancellation of sailings.

Data source: Bord Bia