Ireland has 7.4 million cattle, six million sheep and 1.6 million pigs, according to the latest Crop and Livestock Survey released by the Central Statistics Office.

The survey shows cattle numbers have increased by 37,000 in the 12 months to last June, with dairy cows accounting for 22,000 of the increase, or 61%.

Sheep numbers increased in the 12-month period by 6.4% or 358,000 animals, but pig numbers decreased in the period by 59,500.

The survey also shows the area under tillage for cereals went up 4.5% and for crops fruit and horticulture rose 5.2%.

Donal Kelly, Senior Statistician in the CSO's Agriculture Division, said: "The final results for June 2022 show that the total number of cattle in the country increased by 37,300 (+0.5%) to 7,396,200 when compared with June 2021.

"The total number of dairy cows grew by 22,800 (+1.4%) while the total number of other cows fell by 27,100 (-2.9%).

"A regional analysis of the livestock numbers shows that the largest number of cattle (1,483,100) was in the mid-west region, the largest number of sheep (1,638,800) was in the west region and the largest number of pigs (386,400) was in the border region."

Reacting to the figures, An Taisce's National Environment Officer Elaine McGoff said: "Our agricultural emissions continue to go up year on year as a result of ever increasing cattle numbers and fertiliser use.

"Meanwhile our water quality continues to decline, in lock step with an expanding dairy herd.

"We simply cannot achieve deep emissions cuts and protect water quality with ever increasing numbers of cows.

"We're going to have to reduce the dairy herd, whether that is voluntary or mandatory remains to be worked out by those involved, but it needs to happen if we're serious about tackling our environmental problems.

"What these figures today tell me is that despite all the talk, the Government is categorically failing to shift the direction of travel to a sustainable agricultural system, one that will work for farmers and the environment in the long term.

"The fact that we continue to increase our dairy herd year on year is really indicative of a government policy which is failing to join the dots."

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association president Pat McCormack said farmers are adapting new methods and technologies that will reduce emissions and water pollution even as herd size grows.

"Hopefully over a period of time while the herd continues to grow we will see a reduction in emissions. Farmers are beginning to embrace the technologies that are out there," he said.

He added: "Over time we will see ruminant additives play a significant part in the reduction of emissions, as will genetic gain through the EBI.

"Equally the way we handle, store and spread the organic nitrogen that is produced on farms in critical as we move forward, and that is evident because in 2018, 5% of animal waste was spread with low emission slurry spreaders and in 2022 that was somewhere in excess of 65%.

"So hopefully over a very short period of time we will see improvements from an emissions and water quality perspective".