Thousands of farmers exiting suckler sector
East-west divide opens up as suckler farmer numbers fall by up to 22pc in dairy strongholds
The number of suckler farmers in the south and southeast has fallen by over 20pc since 2010, highlighting the scale of the exodus from beef. Nationally, 9,801 suckler farmers have exited the sector since 2010, a decline of almost 13pc.
Department of Agriculture data also shows that suckler cow numbers have fallen by 118,000 head in the five years from 2012 to 2017, with the bulk of the reduction concentrated in the south.
The beef cow herd hit a high of 1.1 million head in 2012, but fell to 987,000 head by 2017 - an 11pc drop. The fall-off in beef cow numbers is not as sharp when viewed over the longer time frame of 2010 to 2017, with the drop in numbers totalling 76,000 head or 7.2pc.
The latest Department figures confirm that the south and southeast have seen the sharpest falls in beef cow numbers, with the reductions attributed to the high level of dairy conversions in the region.
Cork experienced the biggest fall, with the county's suckler herd dropping from 84,795 to 72,035 - a reduction of 12,760 head, or 15pc.
The suckler herd in Tipperary also dropped 15pc between 2010 and 2017, losing 10,300 head.
However, Waterford saw the biggest proportional loss of beef cows, with the county's herd contracting by a quarter or 6,500 head in the seven-year period. Cork, Tipperary, Waterford and Kilkenny accounted for 45pc of the national reduction in suckler cow numbers between 2010 and 2017, with the four counties losing almost 35,000 cows.
Farmers are also abandoning the enterprise in huge numbers in these counties, with the total number of suckler farmers in Cork back 1,300 or almost 20pc.