The preliminary results of the June 2017 Agricultural Census released by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) have confirmed the growth of the intensive livestock sectors.
The statistics are compiled from a survey of farm businesses augmented by administrative data.
The preliminary results were based on the first 9,000 returns and, whilst they should give an indication of the main trends, are liable to be amended in the light of returns received and processed later.
Final results will be published in November 2017 by which time all returns from farmers will have been processed.
The main changes between June 2016 and June 2017 are:
Poultry: Laying birds recorded for the 1st June 2017 increased by 10% to 3.9 million birds while broiler poultry numbers increased by 9% at that date. The laying bird population has shown strong growth since 2013 and this is partly due to new producers who have entered the industry.
Pigs: In comparison with 2016, sow numbers increased by 3% to 41,400, whereas, the overall pig herd was 8% 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.
Cereals: The area of cereals grown decreased by 2% to 32,600 ha with winter wheat, winter barley and oats all decreasing in 2017. The area of spring barley grown is similar to the previous year and remains the most popular cereal crop with 14,700 ha planted across Northern Ireland.
Other crops: The area in other field crops is 7% higher than last year, which is due to increases in the areas planted under potatoes, arable crop silage and forage maize. The area of potatoes increased by 9% to 4,100 ha, building on last year’s recovery from the record low of 3,800 ha grown in 2015. The area of arable crop silage increased by 4% to 3,500 ha whereas, the area of forage maize increased by 12% to 1,400ha. For forage maize, this ends the downward trend that has been experienced since the peak of 3,500 ha grown in 2008.
Cattle: Total cattle numbers were unchanged from June 2016. From its all-time high in 2016, the number of dairy cows decreased slightly to 315,800 head. The number of beef cows decreased by 1% to 267,100 head.