The latest cow throughput data published by the Department of Agriculture for the first four months of 2024 shows the cull cow kill rising by 23,556 head, or 17.6%, on the corresponding period in 2023.

The increase in throughput was driven by higher drafting of cull dairy cows, with numbers slaughtered rising by 23,564 head and recorded at 114,712 head.

As Table 1 details, the majority of these cows were slaughtered in Department of Agriculture-approved plants.

The cull cow kill was unchanged, with 35,906 head processed in Department approved plants and 6,468 in local authority-approved plants.

The higher drafting of dairy cull cows is a feature of numbers increasing in recent years and greater culling after a very challenging spring, part of which has been encouraged by positive prices.

The latest animal identification and movement (AIM) data shows the number of dairy cows standing at 1,669,796 on 1 April 2024, a reduction of 15,567 head on 1 April 2023.

The number of suckler cows on farms on 1 April 2024 stood at 800,837, a reduction of 45,451 head on the corresponding period in 2023.