By now everyone is well aware of the expansion that the national dairy herd has experienced since 2015.

The Irish Cattle Breeders’ Federation (ICBF) has released data detailing dairy cow population since 2017.

Source: ICBF

The graph shows that dairy cow numbers have increase from 1.43 million cows in 2017 to 1.6 million in 2021.

According to ICBF, as of June 1, 2021 the national dairy herd stands at 1,603,721, this is a 2.3% from 2020 when 1,567,945 cows.

County by county

Accounting for 25% of the dairy cow population with 394,777 cows is the ‘Rebel’ county of Cork, and in second place with nearly 200,000 cows behind Cork, is the ‘Premier’ county of Tipperary, with 182,711 cows.

In third place in the ‘Treaty’ county – Limerick – with 124,411 cows in 2021. Clare has Munster’s lowest dairy cow population with 35,094.

It is not until fifth place on the list that we exit Munster and head east into Leinster were Kilkenny has a dairy cow population of 102,628. Dublin has a dairy cow population of 2,760, however that is not county with the lowest dairy cow population – that lies to the west.

The largest dairy cow population in Connacht can be found in Galway with 42,362, with Mayo in second with 18,662. The smallest dairy cow population nationally and in Connacht can be found in Leitrim with 2,421.

In Ulster, Cavan has the biggest dairy cow population with 41,827, closely followed by Monaghan with 39,807. Donegal has the smallest population of dairy cows with 22,959 in Ulster.

2021 Cow population
Source: ICBF

National dairy herd

Counties such as Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny and Meath have seen cow numbers increase by 28,748; 20,286; 11,667; 17,931; and 8,682 respectively.

The data from ICBF shows that 24 counties have seen an increase in cow numbers since 2017, but two have actually since a decrease in cow numbers.

The county containing the capital city has seen cow numbers decrease from 3,212 in 2017 to 2,760 in 2021.

The second county lies to the west – Leitrim has seen dairy cow numbers decline since from 2017 when 2,508 dairy cows could be found in the county. This has reduced to 2,421 in 2021.

2017 Cow population
Source: ICBF