Spain, with a total bovine herd of 6.18m heads, (of which 1.9m are suckler cows and 0.84m are dairy cows), and a production of 640,000tn of beef, is a relevant cattle importer (nearly 584,000 heads in 2016) both for its beef industry but more recently it has also started playing an important role as a livestock exporter to third countries.
Livestock demand is mainly for male dairy calves (393,500hds) and weanlings from 160-300kg (103, 135 hds) which are finished intensively for young bull production from 10-16 months of age for the domestic market or for export to Portuguese retailers or brought to stores for live exports.
Spanish Cattle Exports
In 2016, Spain exported almost 150,000hds and exports to non-EU countries represented 76.6% of the total. Up to August 2017, Spanish exports to 3rd countries had increased by 77.6% practically reaching 120,000hds. Libya is the main destination for Spain´s cattle exports with 43,821hds, followed by Lebannon with 28,806hds, Turkey 13,623 and Algeria with 4,903hds.
Live exports to third countries, with an average price per head of 1,280€, is more profitable than selling to the domestic meat industry. Third countries are paying 2.30-2.40€/kg live for crossed cattle between 600-660kg and 1.75€/kg for Frisian cattle at around 300-400kg liveweight, while the beef price in Spain is approximately 4.10-4.15 €/kg for R+ and Us of a 360-380kg carcass weight. In the EU, main export destination are Italy (15,000hds) France (6,000hds) and Portugal (3,000hds)
As a result, Spain remains a strong market for Irish calves and livestock promotion continues to focus on developing the calf trade, through event sponsorship with Asoprovac (the organisation representing Spanish feedlot owners), Irish livestock advertising and networking at the main sector gatherings.