Final results of the June Agricultural Census 2018

Date published: 29 November 2018

The final results of the June 2018 Agricultural Census have been released by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

DARD report

The statistics are compiled from a survey of farm businesses augmented by administrative data. The statistics provide robust estimates of crop areas, numbers of livestock and of farmers and workers on active farm businesses on the survey date of 1 June 2018.

The main changes between June 2017 and June 2018 are:


The area of cereals grown decreased by 8% to 29,700 ha with winter wheat, winter barley and oats all down, mainly as a result of poor planting conditions in autumn 2017. From June 2017 the area of wheat grown fell by 22% to 6,800 hectares, the lowest it has been since 2001. After decreasing for the previous four years, the area of spring barley grown in June 2018 showed an increase of 6%, perhaps as a consequence to the poor opportunities to plant winter crops. Spring barley is the most popular cereal crop grown with 14,900 ha planted across Northern Ireland.

Other crops

The area in other field crops is 4% higher than last year, which is due to increases in the areas planted under arable crop silage and forage maize. The area of arable crop silage increased by 18% to 4,300 ha which is the largest area recorded for this crop while the area of forage maize increased by 17% to 1,600 ha. For forage maize, this is the first notable increase in the area grown in 10 years, following a long downward trend that began in 2008 when planting reached a peak of 3,500 ha. Due to the extended length livestock were housed in autumn 2017 and spring 2018 farmers will have planted these extra crops to replenish their depleted fodder stocks. The area of potatoes fell by 11% to 3,600 ha, returning to an area just above the lowest amount recorded for potatoes in 2015.


Total cattle numbers have fallen by 2% from June 2017 to 1.63 million head. The number of beef cows decreased by 4% to 255,900 head with dairy cows decreasing by 2% to 310,700 head. The reduction in cow numbers reflects increased culling during the long winter of 2017/18 when fodder was in short supply.


There was a 2% decrease in the number of breeding ewes compared with 2017 with numbers falling to 956,500 head. Until this year’s decrease, ewe numbers had been increasing over the previous three years. Lamb numbers have fallen by 3% compared with a year ago, which reflects the decrease in ewe numbers and poor conditions at lambing. Overall, the total number of sheep recorded was approximately 2 million which is a 2% decrease from June 2017.


In comparison to 2017, the total female breeding herd increased by 4% to 49,600, which is the seventh consecutive yearly increase in the breeding herd from 2011. Overall, there has been a slight reduction in Northern Ireland total pig numbers of 2% mainly as a result of the lower number of fattening pigs.


Laying birds recorded for the 1 June 2018 increased by 9% to 4.3 million birds while the number of growing pullets fell by 7% to 1.1 million birds. The number of birds for breeding remained relatively unchanged from June 2017. Broiler poultry numbers increased by 5% to 17.7 million birds at the 1 June. Overall, there was a 4% increase in total poultry numbers to over 26 million birds on farm at June 2018. 

Farmers and workers

The size of the agricultural labour force is little changed from the previous year with a 1% increase to 49,200 workers. There was a 1% increase in both the number of full-time and part-time farmers and business partners. Overall the number of farmers and business partners increased by 1% to 30,700. The number of other farm workers also increased by 1% from 2017 levels. Full-time paid workers and part-time paid workers were the only categories to show a decrease in numbers in 2018.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The survey results were prepared by Statistics and Analytical Services Branch, CAP Policy, Economics and Statistics Division of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Dundonald House, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, BT4 3SB.
  2. In an effort to reduce the compliance burden on farmers, the survey form sent to farmers omitted most of the cattle and all of the poultry and pig questions. Survey information was then augmented with data from APHIS for missing cattle variables, the Update of the Northern Ireland Bird Register for poultry and the Annual Inventory of Pigs.
  3. Full details of the coverage of the census and of terms used were given in the booklet “The Agricultural Census in Northern Ireland: Results for June 2017” (DAERA, 2018) and will be repeated in the 2018 issue of this annual publication, available in January 2019. These booklets may be accessed on the Department’s internet site, free of charge.
  4. These statistics are released according to the Statement of Compliance with the Pre-release access to Official Statistics Order (NI) 2009 which can be downloaded from the DAERA website.
  5. These results were compiled from a sample of approximately 14,600 statistical returns, augmented with data from the APHIS cattle tracing system, the Update of the NI Bird Register returns and the Annual Inventory of Pigs.
  6. All recent DAERA statistical press releases can be found on the DAERA website.
  7. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the National Statistics Code of Practice. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference. You can also find National Statistics on the Internet.
  8. The department may take photographs and videos at announcements and events to publicise its work. Photographs, interviews, videos or other recordings may be issued to media organisations for publicity purposes or used in promotional material, including in publications, newspapers, magazines, other print media, on television, radio and electronic media (including social media and the internet). Photographs and videos will also be stored on the department’s internal records management system. The department will keep the photographs and recordings for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which they have been obtained. The department’s Privacy Policy is available on our website.
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  10. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or via email. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.

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