Dairy cow numbers continue to decline, according to DEFRA’s provisional June Census for the UK.

The total dairy breeding herd (aged two years or more) fell by 1.8%, to 1.8m cows, with the beef breeding herd up by 1.1%, to 1.7m cows. Overall, the total number of cattle and calves dropped by 1.7%, to 9.9m cattle, with main herds made up of female cattle aged two years or more that had calved, said the census. Although male cattle numbers fell by 3.9%, to 2.8m head, the UK remained the third largest cattle producer in the EU.

Despite rising feed costs, total pig numbers remained unchanged on 2010, with breeding pigs increasing by 1% and fattening pigs staying the same. Pig numbers totalled 4.5m head, including 522,000 breeding pigs.

The sheep flock increased by 1%, with numbers of breeding ewes, rams and lambs all rising in 2011. “Conversely the number of older non-breeding sheep fell by 20%: This could be due to farmers taking advantage of the recent high prices, reducing the number of older stock.” With a national flock of 31.4m head, the UK was the largest producer of sheep in the EU.