Irish suckler cow numbers decline again

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Provisional results from the Irish June Livestock Survey show that the number of suckler cows in the country declined by 4% year-on-year to 940,000.

Offsetting this slightly was a 2% increase in the number of dairy cows, which brought the total cow herd to 2.5 million, down 0.2% year-on-year.

The total number of cattle in Ireland rose by 0.6% year-on-year to 7.4 million.

Overall, the largest declines were in the population of slaughter cattle aged two years and over (-10%, 80,000 head). This is currently being reflected in Irish slaughter levels. Between Jan-Aug, 1.2 million cattle were processed, 7% lower than the same period a year ago. Bord Bia forecast earlier in the year that Irish cattle kill could be around 100,000-120,000 head lower in 2021 compared to 2020. Currently numbers are back by 82,000.

This lower kill has partly explained the fall in UK beef imports during 2021 so far, alongside lower demand from UK foodservice and post-Brexit border friction. This, coupled with a lower UK kill, has supported farmgate prices here.

Conversely, the population of cattle aged between 1-2 years in Ireland showed the largest gains year-on-year, with numbers up 103,000 head (+6%). This suggests that Irish beef production will return to growth in 2022, which could mean more price-competitive supplies available for the UK market.

Image of staff member Hannah Clarke

Hannah Clarke

Senior Analyst (Red Meat)

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