By law all cattle in Scotland must be registered onto the UK Government's 'Cattle Tracing System'. Each animal has a unique tracking number shown on an ear tag. The cattle numbers shown in this publication are taken from the Cattle Tracing System.
Number of cattle in Scotland: 1.63 million
Cattle numbers continue to decline. In December 2019, the total number of cattle was 1.63 million. This is six per cent lower than the ten-year average and a drop of two per cent compared to the previous year.
Both the dairy and beef cattle herd size declined by two per cent. The number of calves remained stable.
The long term decline in cattle is likely related to an increased cost of feed, vets and animal housing. In addition, the introduction of the Single Farm Payment in 2005 stopped subsidies based on the number of cattle owned. The removal of the support, also known as coupled support, led to a decrease in the profitability of cattle.
Sheep have lambs once per year, during springtime. The number of lambs on farms declines from spring to winter time as lambs are sold for slaughter. This means that lamb numbers are lower than reported in the June Agricultural Census.
Number of sheep in Scotland: 5.03 million
There is a small increase in sheep numbers compared to last December. The total number of sheep has gone up by two per cent. This is mostly due to a five per cent increase in lambs.
The higher number of lambs indicates that the sheep flock has recovered from challenging weather conditions in 2018. Sheep numbers are now above the ten-year average of 4.87 million. This might be linked to mild conditions in the lambing season.
Number of poultry in Scotland: 14.91 million
In December 2019, there was a one per cent increase in poultry compared to the previous year. This was driven by an increase in the number of poultry birds for egg production and fowls for breeding.
The number of poultry birds for meat production decreased by two per cent. They are now outnumbered by birds for egg production by more than half a million. This could be linked to a change in people's diets.
Number of pigs in Scotland: 310,000
Pig numbers declined in 2019. There was a seven per cent drop compared to the previous year. After a brief recovery from 2014 to 2016, this is the third year in a row that pig numbers have fallen.