Irish cattle and sheep numbers rise in 2022

Friday, 30 September 2022

Provisional results from the Irish June Livestock Survey show that the total number of cattle and sheep in Ireland increased in 2022 compared to a year ago.


The total number of cattle in Ireland increased by 0.5% (37,300 head) to 7.4 million. Within this, the number of dairy cows rose by 1.4% (22,800 head) to 1.6 million, while the number of beef cows fell by 2.9% (27,100 head) to 913,000. This brought the total cow herd to 2.5 million, largely stable year-on-year (-0.2%).

These movements continue the longer-term trend in Irish cow numbers; the dairy herd expanding, and the suckler herd contracting. Since 2017, the Irish dairy herd has increased by 14% (194,600 head), while the suckler herd has shrunk by 16% (167,800 head).

Looking at other cattle, the total number of animals aged 2 years and over rose by 2.4% (17,100 head), with those aged 1-2yrs old up 2% (38,100 head). Meanwhile, the number of cattle aged 1 year and under fell by 0.5% (11,500 head), with a decline in male cattle the main driver.

Ireland’s cattle slaughter levels have risen so far in 2022 as supplies have increased; Bord Bia note that for the year to 17 September, Irish prime cattle slaughter is 6% ahead of where it was for the same period a year ago.


The Irish sheep flock expanded by 6.4% (358,200 head) versus June 2021, to nearly 6 million head. This continues the trend seen in sheep numbers over the last few years; since 2017 the national flock has grown by 15% (770,500 head).

Within this, the number of breeding ewes rose by 5.5% (155,000 head), primarily driven by an uplift in the number of ewes aged 2 years and over. Numbers of other (non-breeding) sheep increased by 7.6% (204,600 head) year-on-year to 2.9 million.

Table showing breakdown of the Irish June 2022 livestock census results

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