As the saying goes, there’s always one and this time it’s Kerry. The Kingdom always had its own way of doing things and when it comes to the suckler cow population there, it is the only county that had more suckler cows in 2020 than it had in 2011, 10 years ago.

There were 43,990 suckler cows in Kerry on 30th June 2011 and this rose to 44,137 suckler cows in 2020 – an increase of 147 cows or 0.33% of a rise over the 10-year period. Overall suckler cow numbers have declined by 95,964 head or almost 10% in the last 10 years.

The biggest year-on-year drop came in 2014 where a 4.8% drop was seen. Suckler cow numbers dropped by 2.7% in 2018 and a further 3.9% in 2019. This decline has stabilised in 2020 with a reduction of just 0.9% in the last 18 months.

There were some predictions that suckler cow numbers would fall off a cliff when BDGP ended in 2020. However, 2020 in the overall scheme of things, wasn’t a bad year for suckler systems.

The introduction of BEEP and an extension of BDGP has meant that many now see sucklers as a system that works well alongside part-time farming. There is no question that the profitability issue remains but over the past 12 months more and more farmers have spoken about a future in suckling as opposed to the get out while we can attitude that dominated the conversation in 2019.

The abolition of milk quotas in 2015 meant many farmers, particularly in the southeast of the country, made the switch from beef enterprises to dairy enterprises.

This is evident when we take a look at some of the counties which would be considered as dairying strongholds. Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny and Kildare all recorded drops of over 20% in suckler cow numbers in the last 10 years.