Results from the June Agricultural Census 2023

Date published: 14 December 2023

The results from the June 2023 Agricultural Census have been released today, Thursday 14 December 2023, by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). The statistics provide estimates of crop areas and numbers of livestock on active farm businesses on the survey date of 1 June 2023.

DARD statistics

The statistics are compiled from a survey of farm businesses augmented by administrative data (source from the Animal Public Health Information System (APHIS), cattle tracing system). In response to COVID-19, the data collection for the Farm Census has moved entirely online since 2020. In 2023 the survey included- the addition of some questions modules to help answer specific policy queries. A large response was achieved from the online-only collection and focussed telephone follow-up. This has enabled detailed farm census statistics to be produced.

The main changes between June 2022 and June 2023 are:

Total area farmed: The total area farmed (excluding common land) was approximately one million hectares (1,042,318 hectares), similar to 1,043,270 hectares in 2022.

Cattle: Total cattle numbers have increased by less than 1% to 1,673,345. The number of both beef and dairy cows remained relatively consistent (236,082 beef and 319,346 dairy cows).

Sheep: There was a decrease of 2% in breeding ewes compared to 2022, with numbers decreasing to 973,718. Overall, the total number of sheep recorded was approximately 2 million, which was a 3% fall from June 2022.

Pigs: Total pig numbers recorded in June 2023 decreased by 85 to 682,339 compared to June 2022.

Poultry: Total poultry numbers on farms at June 2023 increased by 24% from 2022 levels with 25.6 million birds recorded. An alteration in animal health factors, which positively affected production, drove the change in the sector. Total number of laying birds saw an increase of 11% whilst broiler numbers increased by over 31% and other poultry by almost 294% compared to June 2022.

Crops: The total area of crops grown in Northern Ireland in 2023 was approximately 47,777 hectares, a decrease of less than 1% from 2022. The total area of cereals (31,803 hectares) grown in 2023 decreased by 3% from 2022. Wheat crops decreased by 45 to 8,309 hectares, Winter and Spring Barley decreased by just over 3% and 2% respectively, while Oats decreased by 3% from 2022, at 1,922 hectares.

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. Key methodological changes introduced in 2020 both in how the Agricultural Census data was collected and processed continued in 2023. These included:

  • Letters inviting farms to take part were issued to all farms and data collected online only. 
  • Some questions were simplified or removed to streamline the online collection experience and reduce the burden on farms.
  • Questions on pigs and poultry were gathered from the NI Annual Inventory of Pigs and Update of NI Bird Register.
  • 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 with a focussed telephone follow-up of non-responding farms completed. 
  • New estimation and imputation methods introduced in 2020 were used to create statistics for those who did not provide a return.

2. Results are based on 15,704 completed questionnaires augmented with data from the APHIS cattle tracing system, Northern Ireland Bird Register and Northern Ireland Annual Inventory of Pigs.

3. Full details of the coverage of the census and of terms used are provided in: The Agricultural Census in Northern Ireland Methodology and Quality Report.

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

5. View all DAERA statistical releases

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

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

Crown Copyright 2023                

A National Statistics publication

The UK Statistics Authority has confirmed these statistics as accredited official statistics. Accredited official statistics are called National Statistics in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. Accreditation signifies production is in accordance with this act and that these statistics comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

This accreditation means that the statistics:

  • meet identified user needs;
  • are well explained and readily accessible;
  • are produced according to sound methods; and
  • are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest.

Once statistics have been accredited it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall be observed regarding them.

Our statistical practice is regulated by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). OSR sets the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics that all producers of official statistics should adhere to.

These accredited official statistics were independently reviewed by OSR in March 2019. They comply with the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics and should be labelled ‘National Statistics’. National Statistics are accredited official statistics. A copy of the compliance check letter can be found here.

Further information on accredited official statistics can be accessed at: and from the UK Statistics Authority at: The UK Statistical System - The UK Statistical System (
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