Final results of the June Agricultural Census 2020

Date published: 22 December 2020

The final results of the June 2020 Agricultural Census have been released today by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

DARD statistics

The statistics provide estimates of crop areas and numbers of livestock on active farm businesses on the survey date of 1 June 2020.

The statistics are compiled from a survey of farm businesses augmented by administrative data. In response to COVID-19, the data collection for the 2020 Farm Census moved entirely online for the first time. The questions on the survey were streamlined to reduce the burden on farmers, and this was supported by a media campaign to encourage completion. A large response was achieved from the online-only collection and focussed telephone follow-up compared to online returns in previous years. This has enabled detailed farm census statistics to be produced. Changes in methods are noted in the notes to editors. 

The main changes between June 2019 and June 2020 are:

Total area farmed: The total area farmed (excluding common land) was approximately one million hectares (1,016,000 hectares), a decrease of 1% compared to 2019.

Cattle: Total cattle numbers have remained the same at 1,610,000. The number of beef cows has reduced by 1% to 244,700 and the number of dairy cow has remained the same as in 2019.

Sheep: There was a 1% decrease in the number of breeding ewes compared with 2019, with numbers falling to 931,000. Overall, the total number of sheep recorded was just under 2 million (1,960,000) which is a 1% fall from June 2019.

Pigs: Overall, there was a 1% decrease in Northern Ireland total pig numbers recorded in June 2020 to 667,600.The decrease in pig numbers was mainly as a result of a lower number of fattening pigs. Data on pigs were collected in the census compared to previous years when the Annual Pig Inventory data was used, further detail on the changes will be described in full in the Final Publication.

Poultry: Overall, there was a 5% decrease in total poultry numbers on farms at June 2020 to 23.4 million birds. Data on poultry were collected in the census compared to previous years when the Annual Bird Register data was used, further detail on the changes will be described in full in the Final Publication.

Crops: The total area of crops grown in NI in 2020 was 45,000 hectares, the same as in 2019. The total area of cereals grown in 2020 was down by 3% compared to 2019 at 29,100 hectares. Wheat crops fell by 14% to 7,000 hectares, Oats and winter barley remained broadly the same and Spring Barley rose by 4% to 12,400 hectares.

The census can be viewed on the DAERA website.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The survey results were prepared by Statistics and Analytical Services Branch, Policy, Economics and Statistics Division of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Dundonald House, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, BT4 3SB.
  2. There were key methodological changes in 2020 both in how the Agricultural Census data was collected and processed. These included:
    • A revised farm census register was created. 
    • Due to COVID-19, a letter inviting farms to take part was issued to all farms and data collected online only for the first time. 
    • Some questions were simplified or removed to streamline the online collection experience and reduce the burden on farms. Questions on pigs and poultry, normally gathered from the NI Annual Inventory of Pigs and Update of NI Bird Register, were added because the inventories were postponed until later in 2020.
    • Data for the cattle section was extracted from the APHIS cattle tracing database as in previous years.  
    • Telephone support was provided for farmers who could not complete online and a focussed telephone follow-up of non-responding farms was carried out. 
    • New estimation and imputation methods were used to create statistics for those who did not provide a return.


  1. Results are based on 12,700 completed questionnaires augmented with data from the APHIS cattle tracing system.


  1. Full details of the coverage of the census and of terms used were given in  “The Agricultural Census in Northern Ireland Methodology and Quality Report for June 2019 (DAERA, 2020) and will be repeated in the Final Report, available in February 2020.


  1. These statistics are released according to the Statement of Compliance with the Pre-release access to Official Statistics Order (NI) 2009.


  1. View all DAERA statistical releases.


  1. Follow DAERA on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office.


  1. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.


  1. Crown Copyright 2020                

A National Statistics publication

National Statistics status means that our statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and public value, and it is our responsibility to maintain compliance with these standards.

The continued designation of these statistics as National Statistics was confirmed in March 2019 following a compliance check by the Office for Statistics Regulation.

The statistics last underwent a full assessment against the Code of Practice in June 2013.

Since the latest review by the Office for Statistics Regulation, we have continued to comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics, and have made the following improvements:

  • Revised the format of the main statistical publication.
  • Improved statistical output by creating an interactive dashboard to accompany the report and tables.
  • Improved statistical output by creating infographics to accompany the report and tables.
  • Improved access to the Agricultural Statistics by adding clearer signposting on the DAERA website.

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