The number of dairy beef animals in the prime beef kill is likely to continue to rise, given changes in the make-up of the beef and dairy sectors, Teagasc director Frank O’Mara has said.

“Our beef industry is changing quite a bit. The biggest change in our beef industry is the emergence of a strong dairy-beef component. In 2023, about 60% of the prime beef kill was of dairy-beef origin.

“That figure is rising, due to the different directions that dairy cow numbers and suckler cow numbers have gone in the last number of years, and are likely to continue, albeit at a lessened pace.

“Having said that, suckler beef is going to remain the dominant enterprise in a large part of the country,” he said.

Beef scheme

Last year, there was a drop of around 50,000 head in suckler cow numbers, he said, adding that it is hard to know what will happen this year.

“Some people are saying that was due to the end of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) scheme and people waiting for that scheme to end.

“They had a decision made to exit a couple of years before, waited until that scheme ended to get out, and therefore, there was a glut of people reducing their numbers or getting out last year.

“The drivers of that are the lack of profitability, the lack of scale in our industry and the lack of successors,” he said.

O’Mara said that when Teagasc looked back at Irish agriculture since Ireland entered the EU 50 years ago, the average dairy herd size has increased by 300%, but the increase in beef farms was less than 50%.