Number of dairy cows in Northern Ireland reaches all time high

The number of dairy cows in Northern Ireland increased by 6% in June 2015 on June last year to 311,500 head, an all time high, figures from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) show.

Total cattle numbers were 3% higher year-on-year while the number of beef cows increased by 2% to 260,300, the figures show.

Looking to sheep, there was a 2% increase to 930,700 in the number of breeding ewes compared with 2014.

DARD said that numbers have fluctuated in recent years, falling to a 20-year low of 876,000 in 2010 before rallying to 937,000 in 2012.

Lamb numbers have increased by 4% which DARD said is aided by the increase in ewe numbers and good grazing conditions during the breeding season in autumn 2014.

Sow numbers have also increased on June 2014. There was a 5% rise to 37,900 with the overall pig herd 7% larger.

According to DARD, all pig categories are showing increases but the growth in the number of fattening pigs has the biggest effect on total numbers.

The poultry sector in Northern Ireland also saw an increase in numbers, with the number of laying birds increasing 8% while broiler poultry numbers increased by 5%, the figures show.

The area of cereals grown increased by 2% to 35,000ha with winter wheat, winter barley and oats all increasing in 2015, DARD said.

There was a drop of 6% in spring barley but DARD said it still remains the most popular cereal crop with 15,900ha planted across Northern Ireland.

The area in other field crops is 8% lower than last year, largely due to a reduction in the areas planted under arable crop silage and potatoes, it said.

The area of potatoes decreased by 7% to 3,900ha, which is the lowest area ever recorded for the crop.

DARD said that the area of arable silage fell by 22% (900ha) to 3,100ha and the area of maize increased by 4% from 2014 to 1,700ha, bringing to an end a downward trend for the crop that began in 2008 when 3,500ha was grown, DARD figures show.

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