Minister makes a final call for the completion of the annual Farm Census

Date published: 22 June 2020

With just over a week to go until the deadline to complete the annual Agricultural and Horticultural Census, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has urged those who haven't done so yet, to go online and fill in the survey.

The survey is one of the oldest of its type in the world, having begun in 1847.

This year, for the first time, the census will be completed totally online due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Moving the survey to a digital platform has been designed to alleviate additional pressure on farming businesses by making the process quicker and more convenient.

The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots MLA said: "I am happy to say that so far, people have responded incredibly to this year’s online survey and the response rate is the highest ever since the digital option became available in 2003. This survey helps my department make many very important decisions on policies aimed at supporting the farming industry and so I am urging our farm business owners  across Northern Ireland to complete the survey, which takes less than 15 minutes. The larger the sample we have, the more accurate our analysis and predications will be. 

"The Coronavirus pandemic has made us rethink how we conduct our business in the farming and horticultural industries. The census allows us to gather information on how people work in the industries, correlate trends and make comparisons between the dairy, beef, pork, poultry and cereal sectors - just one more reason why it is vital that as many census returns as possible are received."

For example, last year’s survey highlighted some interesting facts:

  • There are 24,827 farm businesses in Northern Ireland.
  • For every person in Northern Ireland there are 14 chickens, one cow, one sheep and a third of a pig.
  • There are 48,423 farm workers in Northern Ireland (including farmers and their spouses).
  • Most farms involved in livestock production, with 93% assigned to a livestock type.
  • 10% were classified as dairy farms and 79% as cattle and sheep farms.
  • Grass accounted for almost 80% of all area farmed.

Minister Edwin Poots added: “This year's deadline to fill in the annual survey is 30 June. I want to sincerely thank those who have already taken the time to complete the digital version of the census and encourage everyone to take part in the survey.

“However, if you are unable to complete the census in this way then please email: or call 0300 200 7840 and ask for your local DAERA Direct Office for assistance. Similarly, if you have not already received your unique five-digit code to help you complete the form then again contact DAERA through the above details and a member of the Farm Census team will contact you as soon as possible."

Whilst the deadline for completion is 30 June, the Farm Census team will make follow-up phone calls to some farm businesses throughout the summer in an attempt to gain as much information as possible in order to inform future Departmental policy and financial assistance. In these cases, DAERA would be very grateful for your participation. As with the census itself, these conversations will be carried out in a totally confidential manner.

Download the online census survey, use your unique five-digit code and complete details as requested. Not only will this provide a faster service for all concerned but in this time of crisis help maintain public health.

Notes to editors: 

1. The questions contained in this census will be very similar to previous years (crop areas, livestock, labour) but on this occasion data on cattle will be collated directly from APHIS, so these details don’t need to be completed.

2. Farmers also make use of the census results to inform themselves about changes in the structure of the agricultural industry. Food processors and suppliers of goods and services to the agricultural industry also make use of the statistics in forming their decisions on capital investment for their businesses.

3. There are several benefits to completing the census form online. Errors are automatically detected and the digital format will also automatically calculate totals. This method means there’s no need to post your form, as once it’s completed it is immediately submitted. All of this means that the results of the census can be processed much faster.

4. Census data helps assess the impact of farming on the environment. Livestock numbers and land data is used to estimate greenhouse gas emissions for the UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory which monitors changes in emission levels over time.

5. Further results from the 2019 results:

  • There are 1,023,000 hectares farmed in Northern Ireland.
  • There are two million sheep in Northern Ireland.
  • There are 1.61 million cattle in Northern Ireland (both beef and dairy).
  • There are 674,428 pigs in Northern Ireland.
  • Relatively few farms depend predominantly on cropping with 5% classified as cereal, general cropping or horticultural types.

6. Follow DAERA on Twitter and Facebook.

7. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office at: 

8. 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.

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