June 2021 Agricultural Census released - What are the main changes between 2020 and 2021?

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has released the provisional results of the June 2021 Agricultural Census.

The statistics provide estimates of crop areas and numbers of livestock on active farm businesses on the survey date of 1 June 2021.

The statistics are compiled from a survey of farm businesses augmented by administrative data.

In response to Covid-19, the data collection for the 2020 Farm Census moved entirely online for the first time.


Online data collection continued in 2021, with telephone support for those who were not able to complete online, with good response rates achieved.

Questions streamlined in 2020 were reintroduced again in 2021, including several questions on crops, vegetables and labour.

The main changes between June 2020 and June 2021 are:

Total area farmed: The total area farmed (excluding common land) was approximately one million hectares (1,035,642 hectares), an increase of one per cent compared to 2020.

Cattle: Total cattle numbers have increased by four per cent to 1,681,991.

The number of beef cows have increased by one per cent to 246,956, while the number of dairy cows increased by two per cent to 318,372.

Sheep: There was an increase of two per cent in breeding ewes compared to 2020, with numbers increasing to 968,300.

Overall, the total number of sheep recorded was just over two million, which was also a two per cent rise from June 2020.

Pigs: Total pig numbers recorded in June 2021 increased by five per cent to 716,798, compared to June 2020.

Poultry: Total poultry numbers on farms at June 2021 remained unchanged from 2020 levels with 24.5 million birds recorded.

However, within poultry categories there was a decrease in laying birds of 13 per cent and an increase in broiler numbers of four per cent compared to June 2020.

Crops: The total area of crops grown in Northern Ireland in 2021 was approximately 46,500 hectares, an increase of two per cent from 2020.

The total area of cereals (30,500 hectares) grown in 2021 increased by four per cent from 2020.

Wheat crops increased by eight per cent to 7,700 hectares, winter and spring barley increased by two per cent and three per cent respectively, while oats remained similar to the 2020 area recorded.