Cattle numbers fall, but sheep flock grows

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.

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