The latest 2023 agricultural figures released by the Scottish government have shown a decline of 3% in cattle numbers compared to the five-year average.

Cattle numbers now stand at 1.68 million. Over this period, dairy cattle breeding herds increased by 3% (now at 178,800 cows), while beef cattle breeding herds decreased by 6% (now at 394,000 cows) compared to the five-year average.

The figures were released in a report published by Scotland’s chief statistician which includes estimates from the June agricultural census.

The results also show a decline of 2% in sheep compared to the five-year average to 6.61 million.

The number of pigs has increased by 5% compared to the five year average, continuing a general long-term trend.

Poultry numbers in 2023 were 11.69 million. There are more birds for producing eggs (5.98 million) than birds for meat production (4.67 million).


The report shows that Scottish potato areas have decreased by 6% compared to the five-year average at 26,600ha.

Vegetables for human consumption areas increased by 7% to stand at 21,000ha.

Strawberries are the most popular soft fruit grown in Scotland but saw a decline of 11% compared to the five-year average.

Other estimates from the agricultural census show the total workforce on farm holdings remain steady at 66,800 compared to the five-year average.

Agricultural census

The agricultural census provides an annual update on trends in agricultural activity across Scotland.

It covers all main types of farming and other aspects of farming life such as the availability of labour.

The Scottish agricultural census was paused in 2022 to make improvements to data collection, processing and statistical methodology used.

Following this change, the Scottish government took steps to collect returns mostly online.