The national suckler herd continues its rapid decline, while the national dairy herd continues to grow.

The latest figures from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) show that suckler calf registrations for the period January to May 2023 are back to 480,825.

This is the first time in the last 30 years that the figure has been under 500,000 suckler calf registrations for the first five months of the year. Almost 33,000 fewer suckler births were recorded in the first five months of 2023 compared with 2022.

Given the nature of the calf birth registration process, some registrations would be expected to raise this figure, but not by more than 5,000 births.


Suckler calf registrations for 2022 were 815,608, a drop of almost 25,000 on the 2021 figure of 840,455.

Dairy calf registrations stood at 1,594,373 in 2022, up just over 26,000 registrations on the 2021 figure.

This figure peaked at an extra 55,000 dairy births for the first five months of 2021, but has settled back to growth of just over 20,000/year in 2022 and 2023.

Figure 1 outlines the current state of play with suckler and dairy calf registrations over the last five years.

Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute analysis included in the Food Vision beef and sheep report published in 2022 has forecast suckler numbers - if they continue on the current trend - to end up somewhere around 650,000 suckler cows in 2030, a reduction of about 300,000 sucklers based on the 2022 figure of about 950,000 cows.


Over 20,000 suckler farmers have signed up 500,000 suckler cows in the new five-year SCEP programme.

While this scheme is essential to the survival of suckler farmers across the country, there is no requirement as part of SCEP to hold suckler cow numbers at their current level on farms.

A participating farmer can calve 50% of the reference number of cows on their farm and still get paid the full SCEP money for their reference number.