Carnew-based auctioneer David Quinn is personally handling the dispersal of 10 complete dairy herds this year.

This is “twice what I would normally expect”, he said. These began prior to Christmas, when cows had been dried off, and are continuing into early spring.

Apart from formal dispersal sales, Quinn says that a number of other farmers with smaller numbers have quietly sold their cows across a couple of the general sales. He believes that the higher than normal number of farmers exiting dairy farming this year is in part a delayed reaction to 2022’s record milk price.

“There were a few farmers who were thinking about selling their cows prior to calving down last year, but they held off after having their best ever year in 2022,” he explained to the Irish Farmers Journal.

So, this year is partly seeing that “backlog” of farmers now retiring from dairy farming.

Occasionally, the sale may be driven by financial difficulties. In some cases, there are health reasons or changes in family circumstances. But speaking to dairy farmers who have sold all their cows, it becomes clear the majority are doing so voluntarily.

Some farmers are simply retiring because they have reached an age where the labour demands have become too demanding.

David Quinn, auctioneer, Quinn Property, Co Wexford.

As one farmer told the Irish Farmers Journal “there are three things wrong with milking cows in your sixties – February, March and April”.

Cork Marts’ Seán Dennedy said Corrin Mart is handling two big clearance sales this week.

“They range from 25 cows to 130 cows. Sometimes there’s no successor, sometimes the successor is too young or in a career they want to stick with for now. The necessity to re-invest, particularly on slurry storage, is a factor.

“Farmers feel regulated into the ground, and the derogation changes mean if they want to get out, it’s attractive to rent out in west Cork.”