Glanbia is leading the charge, with 280 new milk suppliers since the watershed of April 2015.
More than 600 new farmers have entered dairying since quotas ended in April 2015.
A nationwide survey of co-ops by the Irish Farmers Journal shows a wide range in the number of new entrants, ranging from one to 280 new milk suppliers.
Glanbia leads the way, with 280 new milk suppliers since quotas ended. New entrants to the co-op must sign a milk supply agreement with Glanbia and Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) is mandatory. It has designated farm development staff who work with new entrants before they start to supply milk.
The next highest number of new entrants is with Lakeland Dairies, which has added 100 new suppliers since 2015.
Dairygold is not far behind, with 88 new milk suppliers to its roll call since 2015.
Kerry, Aurivo and Arrabawn are in a similar range, with 36, 29 and 28 new suppliers each.
The remaining co-ops – Drinagh, Barryroe, Bandon, Lisavaird, LacPatrick and Tipperary – have 10 or fewer new entrants since quotas ended.
As expected, the pace of dairy expansion accelerated once quota ended, with ICBF figures showing that 120,000 new cows were added to the national herd between June 2015 and June 2017.
Today, the national dairy herd is 40% bigger thanit was a decade ago.
Demand for dairy cows and heifers is strong this year, according to livestock agent David Clarke: “Trade is the liveliest it has been in a number of years. There is a lot of expansion and cows are scarce.
“The weather has been perfect, people are confident and they are holding on to cows.”
He quoted prices of €1,300 to €1,500 for freshly calved first, second and third lactation cows, with in-calf heifers starting to trade at €1,000 and upwards.
Clarke added that he is seeing “quite a few” new entrants putting in a robot for 60-cow herds, while the next step up appears to be 80 to 120 cows.
The biggest new entrants are large-scale 300- to 400-cow herds, such as the two Kehoe family tillage to dairy conversions in Co Wexford.