SCOTLAND, UK - The results of the latest December Agricultural Survey show that livestock numbers have generally increased since last year, though poultry numbers fell sharply.
Cattle numbers rose marginally, by 0.4 per cent, to 1.73 million. This was driven by a four per cent increase in dairy cows, with a 1.3 per cent fall in beef cow numbers.
December sheep numbers increased 1.6 per cent to 4.84 million, while pig numbers jumped ten per cent to 322,000.
There was a different picture in poultry though, with 2.4 million fewer broilers leading to a 16 per cent reduction in the overall number of birds.
The area of winter-sown crops in December 2014 was similar to the previous December at 204,000 hectares, with 2,300 hectares more wheat, offset by 1,300 hectares less barley and 500 hectares less oats. Oilseed rape was relatively unchanged.
The results also show that the amount of hay and grass silage saw increases in 2014, but arable silage fell.
There was a 0.6 per cent decrease in the number of tractors, along with falls in various other categories of machinery, which may reflect the increased use of contract working.
Year-on-year comparisons between 2013 and 2014 December Survey results show an increase in the total number of pigs of 28,666 (9.8 per cent), up to 322,134. The rise was larger than the 2.7 per cent annual increase reported in the 2014 June Census results.
There was also an increase in breeding pigs of 4,703 (16.5 per cent) up to 33,200 - again considerably higher than the five per cent annual increase reported in the 2014 June Census results.
This year's rise in overall pig numbers contrasts with the general declining trend since the late 1990s and largely reverses the fall in the number of fattening pigs seen in December 2013.
The figure below shows trends over the past 10 years for breeding pigs from the December Survey and June Census. The long term trends are fairly similar, with the December Survey showing a decrease of 14,899 (31 per cent) over the 10-year period, compared to a decrease of 18,602 (38.1 per cent) from the June Census.
Over this period, December Survey results for breeding pigs have been lower than June Census results in most years but range from being 11.8 per cent lower (in 2012) to 5.7 per cent higher (in 2006).
The figure below compares the profile of pig populations in June and December 2014. The biggest difference is for the smaller pig categories (under 20kg and 20 to 50kg), with a 4,837 (5.5 per cent) rise in the former, and a 3,793 (4.9 per cent) drop in the latter recorded from June.
Looking back over the last 10 years, there tend to be fewer small pigs in December but there are not always more of the larger pigs. However, the pig populations do not show clear seasonal profiles as with other livestock, as the production cycle is not annual, with pigs able to produce two sets of litter in a year.
You can view the full report by clicking here.
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