The national cattle herd increased by 1.5% in 2020 bringing the total number to just over 7.3 million head, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which published its Statistical Yearbook of Ireland 2021 this week.

Numbers of sheep and pigs also increased in 2020 when compared to the previous year.

The former increased by 7.5% to 5.5 million head, while the latter rose by 1% bringing the number of pigs to 1.6 million.

Total cattle

CSO figures outlined below show that the number of head of cattle recorded annually in the month of June from 2011-2020 increased year on year, with the exception of two – 2018 and 2019.

June 20116,493.0
June 20126,754.1
June 2013 6,902.6
June 20146,926.1
June 20156,963.5
June 20167221.2
June 20177,353.5
June 20187,348.5
June 20197,208.6
June 20207,314.4
Total number of cattle recorded every June from 2011-2020

June 2020’s total number included 1,567,700 dairy cows while June 2011’s total number included 1,116,900 dairy cows.

Total sheep

CSO figures outlined below show that the number of head of sheep recorded annually in the month of June from 2011-2020 varied.

Numbers decreased in 2013, increased for four consecutive years before decreasing in 2018 and increasing again for two years in a row.

June 20114,830.0
June 20125,170.0
June 20135,007.0
June 20145,096.8
June 20155,138.7
June 20165,179.2
June 20175,197.1
June 20185,109.3
June 20195,145.8
June 20205,531.1
Total number of sheep recorded every June from 2011-2020

These national herd statistics featured in the annual CSO yearbook, which reveals insights into Ireland, its society, people and industry.

From 1850

The 2021 yearbook also provides an overview of animal numbers in the country since as far back as 1850.

Number of cattle, sheep and pigs from 1850-2020

Since then, the number of cattle has increased, peaking at 7.64 million in 1998.

The number of sheep peaked at 8.9 million in 1992 and since then numbers have fallen sharply to just 5.53 million in 2020.

The number of pigs in 1850 stood at 0.75 million and peaked in 1998 at 1.82 million. Pig numbers were 1.63 million in 2020.