The final results of the June 2020 Agricultural Census have been released today by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland.

The statistics provide estimates of crop areas and numbers of livestock on active farm businesses on the survey date of June 1, 2020.

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.

The questions on the survey were streamlined to reduce the burden on farmers, and this was supported by a media campaign to encourage completion.

A large response was achieved from the online-only collection and focused telephone follow-up, compared to online returns in previous years.

This has enabled detailed farm census statistics to be produced.

Census results

The main changes between June 2019 and June 2020 are:

Total area farmed: The total area farmed (excluding common land) was approximately one million hectares (1,016,000ha), a decrease of 1% compared to 2019.

Cattle: Total cattle numbers have remained the same at 1,610,000. The number of beef cows has remained the same at 244,700 with dairy cow numbers reduced by 1% to 313,300.

Sheep: There was a 1% decrease in the number of breeding ewes compared with 2019, with numbers falling to 931,000.

Overall, the total number of sheep recorded was just under 2 million (1,960,000) which is a 1% fall from June 2019.

Pigs: Overall, there was a 1% decrease in Northern Ireland total pig numbers recorded in June 2020 to 667,600.

The decrease in pig numbers was mainly as a result of a lower number of fattening pigs.

Data on pigs was collected in the census compared to previous years when the Annual Pig Inventory data was used.

Poultry and crops

Poultry: Overall, there was a 5% decrease in total poultry numbers on farms at June 2020 to 23.4 million birds. Data on poultry was collected in the census compared to previous years when the Annual Bird Register data was used.

Crops: The total area of crops grown in Northern Ireland in 2020 was 45,000ha, the same as in 2019.

The total area of cereals grown in 2020 was down by 3% compared to 2019 at 29,100ha.

Wheat crops fell by 14% to 7,000ha, oats and winter barley remained broadly the same and spring barley rose by 4% to 12,400ha.