Dairy cattle numbers remained almost unchanged between 2011 and 2012, bringing to a halt the long-term decline seen since 2005.
According to DEFRA’s provisional livestock survey, the dairy herd (female cattle aged two years or more that have calved) remained stable at 1.8m head. However, the beef herd shrank by 1% to just under 1.7m head. Total cattle and calf numbers in the UK remained almost unchanged, at 9.9m head.
Pig numbers increased by 0.9% to 4.5m, with a 1.1% rise in fattening pigs, to almost 4m, and breeding pig numbers unchanged at 523,000. “A younger breeding herd has led to improvements in sow productivity, therefore availability of pigs for slaughter is good,” said the report by DEFRA. “However, recent high feed and input costs may start to impact on returns and some destocking is expected, which may have more impact later in 2012.”
The sheep flock grew by 0.9%, to 31.9m animals, largely due to a 2% increase in the female breeding flock to 15.2m head. “A mild winter combined with a younger breeding flock, good feed availability in most regions and exports remaining strong have all contributed to the increase.”