In 2015, quotas were abolished and the expansion period began in Ireland for dairy. Since then, the national dairy cow population has been continuously increasing.

Last year, total dairy cow numbers stood at 1,496,232 head whereas this year, as of July 1, dairy cow numbers now stand at 1,520,890 head – breaking the 1.5 million mark for the first time since recording began.

This was an increase of 1.6% from 2018, 5% from 2017 and 7.4% from 2016. This is according to latest figures released by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), today, November 1.


Looking at the figures on a county-by-county basis, Co. Cork still remains the most popular county for dairy at 380,772 cows – making up a massive 25% of the total national cow population; this is an increase of 1,324 cows or 0.4% from 2018.

The second highest county for dairy cows is Co. Tipperary at 173,905 head – making up 11% of the total amount. Compared to 2018, dairy cow number in this county increased by 1,392 head or 0.8%.

Following on from this is Co. Limerick at 119,361 cows – an 8% contribution to the total dairy cow population.

Next in line is Co. Kerry at 104,805 dairy cows – making up almost 7% of the total number; this is an increase of 616 dairy cows from 2018.

Still remaining the county with the smallest population of dairy cows is Leitrim – with just 2,640 head; this number has been decreasing since 2016.

Dublin is coming in with 2,738 head – a fall of 226 cows from 2018 – making it the second lowest populated county in Ireland for dairy cows.

Finally, taking a look at some of the counties which have experienced the greatest increase in dairy cow numbers, since 2018, Wicklow, Meath, Galway and Offaly have increased by 1,347 head, 1,645 head, 1,791 head and 1,391 head respectively.