The final results of the June 2018 Agricultural Census have been released by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
The main changes between June 2017 and June 2018 are:
Cereals: The area of cereals grown decreased by 8% to 29,700 ha with winter wheat, winter barley and oats all down, mainly as a result of poor planting conditions in autumn 2017. From June 2017 the area of wheat grown fell by 22% to 6,800 hectares, the lowest it has been since 2001. After decreasing for the previous four years, the area of spring barley grown in June 2018 showed an increase of 6%, perhaps as a consequence to the poor opportunities to plant winter crops. Spring barley is the most popular cereal crop grown with 14,900 ha planted across Northern Ireland.
Other crops: The area in other field crops is 4% higher than last year, which is due to increases in the areas planted under arable crop silage and forage maize. The area of arable crop silage increased by 18% to 4,300 ha which is the largest area recorded for this crop while the area of forage maize increased by 17% to 1,600 ha. For forage maize, this is the first notable increase in the area grown in 10 years, following a long downward trend that began in 2008 when planting reached a peak of 3,500 ha. Due to the extended length livestock were housed in autumn 2017 and spring 2018 farmers will have planted these extra crops to replenish their depleted fodder stocks. The area of potatoes fell by 11% to 3,600 ha, returning to an area just above the lowest amount recorded for potatoes in 2015.
Cattle: Total cattle numbers have fallen by 2% from June 2017 to 1.63 million head. The number of beef cows decreased by 4% to 255,900 head with dairy cows decreasing by 2% to 310,700 head. The reduction in cow numbers reflects increased culling during the long winter of 2017/18 when fodder was in short supply.
Sheep: There was a 2% decrease in the number of breeding ewes compared with 2017 with numbers falling to 956,500 head. Until this year’s decrease, ewe numbers had been increasing over the previous three years. Lamb numbers have fallen by 3% compared with a year ago, which reflects the decrease in ewe numbers and poor conditions at lambing. Overall, the total number of sheep recorded was approximately 2 million which is a 2% decrease from June 2017.
Pigs: In comparison to 2017, the total female breeding herd increased by 4% to 49,600, which is the seventh consecutive yearly increase in the breeding herd from 2011. Overall, there has been a slight reduction in Northern Ireland total pig numbers of 2% mainly as a result of the lower number of fattening pigs.
Poultry: Laying birds recorded for the 1 June 2018 increased by 9% to 4.3 million birds while the number of growing pullets fell by 7% to 1.1 million birds. The number of birds for breeding remained relatively unchanged from June 2017.