A sharp lift in dairy cow disposals in October saw the kill surge by 33% compared to October 2022.

The latest figures from the Department of Agriculture show that the cow kill hit almost 25,400 head in October.

This was up 6,500 head on the same month last year when the total dairy cow kill was nearly 19,000 head.

The Department figures confirm that the dairy cow kill was also well up in September when disposals hit close to 19,500 head. This was an increase of 9% on the figure for September 2022.

However, the overall dairy cow kill to the end of the October is running just 3% or 7,000 head up on 2022.

While 226,000 dairy cows were culled by the end of October this year, the same figure for 2022 was 219,000hd.

The gap in the cow kill relative to 2022 is even narrower when beef cows are added to the calculation.

The total beef and dairy cow kill to the end of October this year was almost 370,000hd, just 1,000 animals more than were killed during the same period in 2022.

The drive to offload dairy cows this autumn has resulted in factories facing “serious numbers” since September, one factory source told the Irish Farmers Journal.

He maintained that factories in the south were under pressure to control the intake of cows coming directly from the milking parlour.

“An awful lot of them are going straight for the mincer,” he admitted.

While factors such as the nitrates derogation cut, banding, feed prices and fodder quantity and quality have all contributed to the increased cow cull this autumn, the ICMSA’s Des Morrison claimed that the relatively strong trade for cull cows was also an attraction.


He pointed out that well-fleshed dairy cows grading O3 or P3 were making up to €4.00/kg in the factories, with good quality R3 cows making up to €4.40/kg.

“Fleshed cows of all grades are a good trade at the moment,” Morrison pointed out.

These prices enabled finishers to pay more in the marts and was putting a floor on the trade, the ICMSA representative claimed.

Although the general consensus is that cow numbers have started to taper off in the marts, Fionn Sherlock of Enniscorthy Mart said entries remained very strong.

Light cows directly out of the milking parlour generally sold for €1-1.20/kg.

Cows with a bit of flesh made up to €1.30-1.40/kg, while heavy Friesian cows (800kg plus) that were well fed made from €1.80/kg to €2.00/kg.

Jim Bushe of New Ross Mart said cow numbers had been steadier this autumn than expected.

However, he maintained that farmers had been culling and selling cows since the summer and this had prevented an avalanche of cows coming out this winter.