The total number of cattle in Ireland fell by more than 30,000 head in 2020, making it the third consecutive year that the size of the national herd has declined.

According to new statistics from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), total cattle numbers in Ireland at the end of December 2020 were down 0.5% year on year to just over 6.5m head.

Irish cattle numbers peaked in 2017 at just under 6.7m head, but have fallen by 2%, or close to 150,000 head, in the last three years.

Dairy cows

The CSO figures show that the total number of dairy cows in Ireland increased by 2% last year to just over 1.45m head, but this was more than offset by a near 4% decline in beef cow numbers to just 923,000 head.

There are now more than 130,000 fewer beef cows in Ireland than there was in 2015 - a 12% decline.

The CSO figures also show the total number of cattle between one and two years of age (male and female) fell 2% throughout 2020 to just under 1.7m head.

The number of male and female cattle over two years of age fell 20% last year to just over 345,000 head.

The number of calves in the country at year-end 2020 was up 5% year on year to just under 1.9m head.