Results from the Scottish Agricultural Census: June 2021

Final results from the 2021 June Agricultural Census on land use, crop areas, livestock and the number of people working on agricultural holdings.

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Halt in decline of total cattle numbers

A chart showing total cattle numbers from 1970-2021.

Total cattle numbers slightly increased in 2021, following a steady long term decline which saw a new 60 year low in 2020. In 2021, there were 1.72 million cattle in Scotland, a rise of less than one per cent on the previous year.

Factors that may have contributed to this rise could be current high beef and dairy prices and a shortage of labour for processing animals. The slight increase in cattle numbers was driven by an increase in the number of calves, female dairy and beef cattle aged 1-2 years held on farm.

Number of cattle : 1.72 million

Office of National Statistics environmental figures show greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture fell by just over 13 per cent between 1990 and 2019. This reduction is partly linked to a fall in livestock numbers.

Cattle numbers in Scotland have been trending down since a peak in 1974 when there were 2.68 million cattle.

The long term downward trend in cattle numbers has been driven by a fall in their profitability. This has been due to a number of reasons, such as an increase in costs and the end of support based on the number of cattle owned (coupled support) in 2005.

Long-term decline in beef cows as number of dairy cows remains stable

A chart showing beef cow and dairy cow numbers from 2011-2021.

Over the past 10 years, there has been a 12 percent decline in the total beef breeding herd, but the number this year was stable compared to the previous year, at 413,400.

Number of beef cows : 413,400

Number of dairy cows : 174,200

The total number of dairy cows has remained relatively stable over the past 10 years. In 2021 dairy cows numbered 174,200, an increase of less than one per cent on the number in 2020.

Scottish sheep flock continues to recover

A chart showing lambs, ewes and other sheep from 2011-2021.

A favourable spring and mild winter provided a good lambing season, which saw lamb numbers increase by one per cent compared to 2020.

The number of breeding ewes increased by one per cent to 2.57 million in 2021, and the total number of sheep increased by two per cent to 6.83 million sheep.

Number of sheep : 6.83 million

The overall increase in sheep numbers was partly driven by a large increase in the number of sheep over one year old being kept on farm. This may be due to the knock-on effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19) which reduced both abattoir capacity and demand.

Number of poultry : 14 million

A chart showing birds for meat production and birds for egg production from 2011-2021.

Poultry numbers decreased over the past year. In June 2021, there were an estimated 14 million poultry birds in Scotland, a drop of three per cent on the previous year. The number of birds for egg production increased by less than one per cent, to 6.4 million. The number of birds for meat production decreased by six per cent, to 6.3 million.

Number of pigs : 341 thousand

A chart showing total pig numbers from 2011-2021.

The number of pigs increased for the third year in a row. In June 2021, there were around 341,000 pigs, a rise of one per cent on the previous year. However, there was a fall of nine per cent in the total breeding herd, to 32,800 pigs.

Other livestock:

34,200 horses
17,100 farmed deer
1,500 donkeys
4,500 beehives
7,800 goats
2,200 camelids

Area of rented land remains stable as shorter term tenancies increase

A chart showing area of secure tenancies, other tenancies and total tenanted land from 2015-2021.

The total area of tenanted land decreased by two per cent compared to 2020. The area of secure tenancies fell by two per cent, and the area of other tenancy types remained fairly stable.

Newer, limited period tenancy arrangements have been increasing in recent years. These arrangements accounted for just over one third of all tenancy types in 2021.

Area of rented land : 1.27 million hectares

Over the longer term, the amount of rented agricultural land has fallen steadily over the past ten years from 25 per cent in 2011 to 22 per cent in 2021.



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