New figures show that there was a modest increase in the total number of cattle in Northern Ireland during 2022.

According to latest figures from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), the cattle herd in Northern Ireland has increased by 0.3% since 2021.

DAERA has today (Thursday, June 29) published the Statistical Review of Northern Ireland Agriculture 2022 which provides a general picture of the overall year of the sector in 2022.

The report showed the impact of the meat, dairy, and tillage sectors, which all contributed to the gross output of Northern Ireland agriculture, estimated at £3.07 billion for 2022, a 23.0% increase from 2021.

NI farm incomes

The agricultural income of Northern Ireland's farms increased in 2022, with a total of 26,089 active farm businesses operating in June 2022, a 0.1% increase from 2021.

The total income from farming (TIFF) – which measures the return to farmers, partners and directors, their spouses and other family workers for their labour, management input and own capital invested – increased by 17.4% to £605 million.

The total agricultural labour force in 2022 was 51,760 persons, a 0.8% decrease from 2021.

This increase of TIFF in 2022 was mainly driven by higher product prices for most sectors, and means it is now 65.8% above the average of the last 20 years after accounting for inflation.

Input costs also rose to record levels with marked increases in feed, fertiliser, electricity, and fuel prices, which offset the increased returns achieved through the higher product prices.

Meat sector

The total number of cattle on Northern Ireland's farms at the time of the June 2022 Agricultural Census was greater than in 2021 at approximately 1.7 million, an increase of 0.3%

The number of beef cows was 246,200, a decrease of 0.3% compared to 2021.

The total cattle population peaked in 1998 at 1.8 million before gradually falling to just under 1.6 million in 2009.

Source: DAERA

In June 2022, the sheep breeding flock was 3.0% higher than in 2021 at 997,200 ewes and when including lambs and other sheep, the entire flock totalled 2.1 million in 2022.

In 2022, cattle and/or sheep were present on 23,708 farms (90.9%).

At June 2022, the total number of pigs in Northern Ireland was 738,600, an increase of 3.0% compared to 2021.

Broiler numbers in Northern Ireland decreased by 25.4% to 11.9 million birds.

Dairy sector

At June 2022, there were 316,800 dairy cows, a decrease of 0.5% from 2021, but milk output was up by £322 million to £1.13 billion due to a 40.5% increase in milk prices.

Average gross milk yield per cow decreased from 8,083L in 2021 to 8,036L in 2022, a 0.6% decrease.

The lower milk yields contributed to a 0.6% decrease in total milk output for 2022 in Northern Ireland to 2.5 billion litres.

The average gross milk price for 2022 (before deducting transport costs) was 44.77p/L, a 40.5% increase.

The average number of dairy cows was per herd was 99.5, more than the average in 2021, which was 97.9.

Tillage sector

The total area of cereals was 32,700ha in June 2022, which was an increase of 7.3% compared to 2021.

In 2022, the total area of potatoes grown remained similar at 3,500ha compared to the previous year.

Production of spring barley increased by 1.3% to 78,319t, while winter barley production rose by 0.3% to 60,063t.

Wheat production increased by 6.2% to 67,538t, while the production of oats rose by 12.2% to 12,258t.

Farm costs

The quantity of fertilisers purchased in 2022 decreased by 15.8% to 257,410t while the average price increased by 147.7% to £715/t.

As a result of the quantity purchased and price paid, the total value of fertiliser purchases increased, by 108.7% to £184 million.

Total expenditure on lime increased by 23.5% when compared to 2021 levels to £9.9 million.

The quantity purchased increased by 3.2% to 250,373t while the price paid increased by 19.7%

Machinery expenses in 2022 increased, by 31.0%, to £208 million, an increase driven by a 58.1% increase in fuel and oil costs.