Scottish Agricultural Census - provisional results: June 2020

Provisional results from the 2020 June Agricultural Census on land use, crop areas, livestock and the number of people working on agricultural holdings.

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Steady decline of total cattle numbers

A chart showing total cattle numbers from 1970-2020.

Total cattle numbers have steadily declined to a new 60 year low. In 2020, there were 1.71 million cattle in Scotland, a one per cent drop on 2019. Cattle numbers in Scotland have been trending down since a peak in 1974 when there were 2.78 million cattle.

Number of cattle: 1.71 million

Office of National Statistics environmental figures show methane emissions in the agriculture and related land use sector fell by just over 16 per cent between 1990 and 2018. This reduction is partly linked to a fall in livestock numbers.

In recent years the cost of feed, vets and animal housing have increased. Combined with the introduction of the Single Farm Payment in 2005, which stopped payments based on the number of cattle owned (coupled support), this led to a fall in the profitability of cattle.



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