Positive signs in livestock census results

The English cattle herd expanded slightly this year, but sheep and pig numbers both fell, provisional June 2010 census figures show.

The total number of cattle increased by 1% compared with 2009 to 5.5m head, with a 3% increase in the beef breeding herd. There was a large decline in beef heifers as more dairy sires were used on farms – the number of dairy heifers under two years old rose. The dairy breeding herd was relatively stable.

Meanwhile, lower lambing rates due to the cold winter last year contributed to a 2% fall in the English sheep flock, to 14.1m. The breeding flock was down by 1%, while shearling and cull ewe numbers were both up as producers took advantage of higher prices and cleared out older, less productive stock, AHDB meat services said.

“Overall this indicates stability in the breeding flock going forward.”

Total pig numbers were 2% down at 3.6m, thought to be largely due to higher prices in the first half of the year encouraging increased slaughterings. A 5% fall in the number of sows in-pig was more than offset by a 28% rise in gilts in-pig and 14% rise in maiden gilts.