Dairy and beef cow numbers increase in Northern Ireland

Total cattle numbers in Northern Ireland were 3% higher in June 2016 than they were in June 2015, the preliminary results of the June Agricultural Census show.

The number of dairy cows in the North increased by 2% to 317,100 head on June last year, which is an all time high.

The number of beef cows also increased, by 4%, to 269,700 head, the figures show.

The figures also show that there was a 1% rise in the number of breeding ewes in the North in June 2016 compared with 2015.

Numbers have fluctuated in recent years, falling to a 20-year low of 876,000 in 2010 before increasing to 950,100 this year, which is the highest level since 2007, according to the figures.

Lamb numbers have increased by 2% which links in with the increase in ewe numbers. Overall, the total number of sheep recorded surpassed 2m which again is a level not seen since 2007.

Cereals

Meanwhile, the area of cereals grown increased by 2% to 33,600ha with winter wheat, winter barley and oats all increasing in 2016.

Spring barley fell by 3% but still remains the most popular cereal crop with 15,200ha planted across Northern Ireland.

The area in other field crops is 4% lower than last year, which is partly due to a reduction in the areas planted under arable crop silage and forage maize.

The area of arable crop silage fell by 5% to 3,100ha, whereas, the area of forage maize fell by 8% to 1,400ha.

This fall in the forage maize area continues a downward trend that began in 2008 when 3,500ha was grown. The area of potatoes increased by 4% to 3,700ha, a slight recovery from 2015 which had the lowest area ever recorded for the crop.

Pigs

According to the figures, in comparison with 2015, sow numbers increased by 2% to 39,100, whereas, the overall pig herd was 4% larger.

Most pig categories are showing an upward trend but the growth in the number of fattening pigs has caused the most increase in total numbers.

Poultry

Meanwhile, laying birds recorded for June 1, 2016 increased by 20% to 3.8m birds while broiler poultry numbers increased by 4% at that date.

The laying bird population has shown strong growth since 2013 and this, DAERA said, is partly due to new producers who have entered the industry

Farmers and workers

The size of the agricultural labour force decreased by 1% from the previous year to 47,400, the figures show.

Within this, the number of farmers decreased by 2% to 29,500 due to decreases in both the full-time and part-time farmer categories.

In terms of other full-time workers, both paid and unpaid categories showed a decrease of 5% compared to 2015, it found.