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Farming: Agricultural Census results show a falls in cattle as pig numbers increase

By David Porter

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The latest 2023 figures released by the Scottish Government show mixed findings across Scottish agriculture.

The report, published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician, includes estimates from the June Agricultural Census.

It shows that potato areas decreased by six per cent compared to the five year average, at 26,600 hectares and vegetables for human consumption areas increased by seven per cent to 21,500 hectares. The amount of area used to grow vegetables for stockfeed decreased by five per cent.

Strawberries are again the most popular soft fruit grown in Scotland, but saw a decline of eleven per cent compared to the five year average. Strawberries make up more than half the total soft fruit area, total soft fruit area fell by seven per cent in 2023 at 2000 hectares.

The area used to grow blackcurrants and blueberries increased but the area used to grow raspberries has been in long-term decline since 2010.

Livestock estimates show that cattle numbers stood at 1.68 million, a decline of three per cent compared to the five year average.

A decline in numbers of calves and female beef cattle contributed to the decrease.

Over this period, dairy cattle breeding herds have increased by three per cent to 178,800 cows whilst beef cattle breeding herds have fallen six per cent compared to the five year average to 394,700 in 2023.

The results also show a decline of two per cent in sheep compared to the five year average to 6.61 million. However, numbers remain in line with the long-term trend over the past 10 years.

Pig numbers across Scotland have increased.
Pig numbers across Scotland have increased.

The number of pigs has increased by five per cent compared to the five year average, continuing a general long term trend.

In 2023, numbers of other pigs was at 302,000 matching the overall five percent increase against the five year average. However, the total breeding herd fell by seven per cent from the five year average (from 33,500 to 31,100 pigs).

There was a 20 per cent increase in farmed deer in 2023 to 14,900 compared with the five year average (12,400 animals).

Poultry numbers in 2023 were 11.69 million, there are more birds for producing eggs (5.98 million) than birds for meat production (4.67 million). No comparison with previous years is made due to methodological changes.

Other estimates from the Agricultural Census show the total workforce on farm holdings remain steady at 66,800 compared to the five year average.

The Agricultural Census was paused in 2022 to make improvements to data collection, processing and statistical methodology used. Following this change, the Scottish Government took steps to collect returns mostly online.

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