Milk intakes fell by a massive 365.5m litres or 4.1% in 2023, Central Statistics Office (CSO) data has confirmed.

This is the first significant reduction in milk intakes by Irish dairy processors in 15 years and signals the end of an unprecedented period of expansion.

Total intakes by creameries and liquid milk plants for 2023 hit 8.5 billion litres, back from 8.865 billion litres in 2022. The reduction in supply fell below 2021 levels 3.4%.

The dramatic fall-off in milk output this year was blamed on a combination of lower prices, atrocious weather and changes to the nitrates derogation limits.


Supplies collapsed through the backend of 2023, as farmers were forced to house and feed cows early due to the poor weather. Many farmers dried cows off as a consequence since it didn’t pay to feed them and milk on.

This trend was confirmed by the latest CSO figures, which showed that December milk supplies fell by a whopping 27% or 76.6m litres to 206m litres.

Sizeable reductions in milk deliveries were also recorded during the months of October and November.

Increased culling of cows also contributed to the sharp drop in milk supplies through the backend of 2023.

Tighter regulations around stocking rates have forced a significant proportion of intensive dairy farmers, who have not been able to secure additional land, to cut cow numbers to comply with the new rules.


While some processors predicted that milk volumes will rebound in 2024, others are not so sure given the difficulties around the derogation, the age profile of existing suppliers and an absence of new entrants.

Meanwhile, the CSO figures showed that fat content dropped from 4.85% in December 2022 to 4.79% in December 2023. Protein content also fell from 3.76% in December 2022 to 3.70% in December 2023.

Butter production also fell during December when compared with 2022, dropping from 14,400t to 13,000t.

However, overall butter production in 2023 increased by 3% or 8,200t compared with 2022. Butter production totalled 277,400t in 2023, up from 269,200t in 2022.