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UK Farming Statistics

02 January 2013

UK Farming Statistics - Final Crop Areas, Yields, Livestock Populations UK Farming Statistics - Final Crop Areas, Yields, Livestock Populations

The total number of cattle and calves has remained almost unchanged between 2011 and 2012 at 9.9 million.
UK Farming Statistics

The latest National Statistics on United Kingdom agriculture and horticulture, and cereals and oilseed rape production were released on 20 December 2012 according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority. These data are produced by Defra on behalf of the agriculture departments of the United Kingdom.

This release has been updated to include final estimates for land use, crop areas, livestock populations, the agricultural workforce and the size of the UK cereals and oilseed rape harvest for 2012. These results replace those provisional results published on 15 October 2012. The key results are given below.

Agricultural Land Areas

The total utilised agricultural area (UAA) in the UK remains unchanged at 17.2 million hectares. The increases in areas of total crops and temporary grass have offset the decreases seen in the uncropped arable land and permanent grassland areas.

Crop Areas, Yields and Production

Wheat: The 2012 wheat harvest for the UK is 13.3 million tonnes, a decrease of 13% on 2011. This is a result of a 1.1% increase in the wheat area to 2.0 million hectares combined with a 14% decrease in the yield to 6.7 tonnes per hectare. This decrease is a result of the poor weather conditions this year.

Oilseed rape: The oilseed rape harvest has shown a decline of 7.3% to 2.6 million tonnes for 2012. The yield has decreased by 14% to 3.4 tonnes per hectare following the very poor weather during spring and summer. This has been balanced out by an increase in area of 7.3% to 756 thousand hectares following favourable planting conditions in autumn 2011.

Barley: Despite a small reduction in the yield, barley production for 2012 has remained almost static with only a slight increase of 0.5% to 5.5 million tonnes. The yield for barley has fallen by 2.7% to 5.5 tonnes per hectare. Winter barley area has increased by 7.2% to 385 thousand hectares, while the spring barley area has increased only very slightly by 1.1% to 618 thousand hectares.

Horticultural Crops

The total area of horticultural crops has decreased by 2.0% between 2011 and 2012, now standing at 172 thousand hectares. Vegetables and salad for human consumption make up the majority of this area at 123 thousand hectares, a reduction of 4.1% from 2011.


  • The total number of cattle and calves has remained almost unchanged between 2011 and 2012 at 9.9 million. Whilst the main beef herd saw a 1.0% decrease to just under 1.7 million, there was almost no change seen in the main dairy herd which remained at 1.8 million.
  • Pig numbers saw a small increase of 0.9% from 2011, now standing at almost 4.5 million. This is mainly due to the 1.0% increase in fattening pigs as improvements in sow productivity means availability of pigs for slaughter has been good.
  • The UK population of sheep and lambs has risen by 1.8% to 32 million animals, largely due to the 2.4% increase in the female breeding flock to 15 million.
  • Laying and breeding fowl decreased by 4.1% between 2011 and 2012 and now stands at 47 million birds. The number of table chickens remained virtually unchanged at 103 million.

Agricultural Workforce

The total number of people working on agricultural holdings in the UK is 481 thousand as at June 2012. This is an increase of 1.2% on the same period in 2011 and equates to a rise of approximately 5 thousand people.

Key Country Level Changes

Figure 1 shows how the UK percentage change for certain items compares to the country level changes. Despite decreases seen in the wheat and potato areas in Scotland and Northern Ireland the small increases in the England areas have driven the UK level change. This is due to the largest proportion of these crops being grown in England.

Percentage Changes Between 2011 and 2012 by UK Country
 UK % changeEngland % changeScotland % changeN. Ireland % changeWales % change
Wheat 1% 2% -13% -19% -1%
Potatoes 2% 4% -5% -14% 16%
Pigs 1% 2% -7% 0% 11%
Sheep 2% 2% -1% 4% 3%
Cattle 0% -1% -1% 2% -1%

Data Uses, Next Publications and Survey Methodology

Information on how each of the UK countries run their surveys can be found on pages 17 to 21 along with data uses and upcoming publication dates.

Detailed Results

Utilised Agricultural Area

Total Utilised Agricultural Area at 1 June 2000 to 2012

The utilised agricultural area is made up of all arable and horticultural crops, uncropped arable land, land used for outdoor pigs, temporary and permanent grassland and common rough grazing. In June 2012 the total utilised agricultural area in the UK was 17.2 million hectares, covering 70% of the UK land area. Figure 2 shows that the total utilised agricultural area has been fairly stable since 2000.

Croppable Area

Croppable land consists of land currently under arable or horticultural crops, uncropped arable land and temporary grass. At June 2012 the croppable area stood at 6.3 million hectares, an increase of 2.5% from the same period in 2011. This area represents over a third of the utilised agricultural area.

Despite fluctuations in individual crop and land areas, the proportions of land that make up the croppable area tend to remain stable from year to year. Figure 3 shows how these proportions have remained almost unchanged between 2011 and 2012, with cereals continuing to account for half of the croppable area.

Breakdown of Croppable Area at 1 June 2012 Compared to 2011

Cereals and Oilseeds

Crop Areas in the UK Between 1984 and 2012

Figure 4 shows the area of the three most popular crops grown in the UK, wheat, barley and oilseed rape. Since 1984 the wheat area has fluctuated between approximately 1.6 and 2.1 million hectares. The area of barley has declined considerably over the years and now stands at roughly half the area it was in 1984. Conversely the area of oilseed rape has increased almost threefold from 269 thousand hectares in 1984 to 756 thousand hectares in 2012.

Crop Production in the UK Between 2011 and 2012

Figure 5 shows that wheat production was the hardest hit by the poor weather conditions in 2012 as poor yields greatly reduced the tonnage produced. Winter barley has shown a small increase in production while oats have remained fairly static. Spring barley and oilseed rape both showed a drop in production.

UK Crops Yields Between 2000 and 2012

As figure 6 shows, yields for all crops shown have fallen between 2011 and 2012 with wheat and oilseed showing the greatest drops. The wheat yield is the lowest it has been during the last 20 years. Note that regional figures are available in the cereal and oilseed dataset on our website at:


The final estimate of the UK wheat harvest for 2012 is 13.3 million tonnes which is a decrease of 13% on 2011. This decrease is mainly due to the large drop in yield to 6.7 tonnes per hectare along with a very slight 1.1% increase in the wheat area to 2.0 million hectares. The area of planted wheat in England which has been harvested as wholecrop for silage in 2012 was 25 thousand hectares, representing 1.4% of the total planted area. This is a slight increase on 2011 where the area of wheat taken for wholecrop represented 1.0% of the total planted area.

As figure 7 shows, wheat yields continue to vary between the English regions with the highest yield of 7.3 tonnes per hectare being found in the Eastern region. The lowest yield was in the North West and Merseyside at 5.0 tonnes per hectare. Yields have been affected by the poor weather this year which led to high levels of disease during spring and summer along with low sunlight levels during the grainfill period. This can be seen in figure 7 where all regions except the Eastern region have shown a noticeable decrease in yield.

Wheat Yield by English Region 2011 to 2012


The yield for barley has decreased slightly on 2011 to 5.5 tonnes per hectare. On a regional basis, the highest yields for barley were in the Eastern region with an average of 6.4 tonnes per hectare. The lowest regional yield of 4.5 tonnes per hectare was in the North West and Merseyside.

Oilseed rape

UK production for 2012 has decreased by 7.3% to 2.6 million tonnes. This drop was due to a 14% decrease in yield to 3.4 tonnes per hectare, partially balanced by a 7.3% increase in area. This reflects a return to the level of yields seen in recent years. Yields have suffered in comparison to the very high yields of 2011, primarily as a result of wind and rain flattening the crop in the run up to the harvest, and low sunlight levels during pod fill.

Horticultural crops

The total area devoted to horticultural crops reduced by 2.0% between 2011 and 2012 to 172 thousand hectares. This decline was mainly driven by a 4.1% decrease in the area of vegetables and salad for human consumption, which fell to 123 thousand hectares and accounts for 72% of total horticultural land (see figure 8). Orchards account for the next largest area at 24 thousand hectares, followed by hardy nursery stock, small fruit and glasshouse.

Breakdown of Total Horticultural Area at 1 June 2012


Dairy and Beef Herd Numbers at June 2005 to 2012

The total number of cattle and calves in the UK remained almost unchanged in 2012 at 9.9 million head. Numbers in the dairy herd stayed virtually the same between 2011 and 2012 at 1.8 million, halting the long term decline seen since 2005 (see figure 9). The beef herd saw a 1.0% decrease from 2011 in contrast to the increases seen in the previous two years. The main dairy and beef herds are made up of female cattle aged 2 years or more that have calved.


The total number of pigs in the UK increased by 0.9% and now stands at 4.5 million. While the numbers of fattening pigs increased by 1.0% to almost 4.0 million, breeding pig numbers remained unchanged since 2011 at 523 thousand. A younger breeding herd has led to improvements in sow productivity therefore availability of pigs for slaughter is good, which may explain the increase in the fattening pigs. However recent high feed and input costs may start to impact on returns and some destocking is expected, which may have more impact later in 2012.


In June 2012 there were 32 million sheep and lambs in the UK, an increase of 1.8% on the 2011 figure. This increase has mainly been driven by the 2.4% increase in the female breeding flock which now stands at 15 million head. The number of rams has also increased between 2011 and 2012, rising from 378 to 392 thousand, while lamb numbers have increased by 1.5% to 16 million.

On the whole conditions have been favourable this year. A mild winter combined with a younger breeding flock, good feed availability in most regions and exports remaining strong have all contributed to the increase seen in the breeding flock.


In 2012 the total number of laying and breeding fowl fell by 4.1% from 49 million in 2011 to 47 million. The number of table chickens remained almost unchanged from 2011 at 103 million, whereas the total number of ducks, geese, turkeys and other poultry fell by 5.3%.

Agricultural workforce

The number of farmers, partners, directors and spouses remained almost unchanged between 2011 and 2012 at 298 thousand. The number of salaried managers saw a small decrease of 1.2% but still remains at approximately 11 thousand as it has since 2009.

Regular and casual workers saw an increase of 3.6%, which was largely due to the 6.9% increase in seasonal and casual workers. Traditionally this category of workers tends to fluctuate more than the others due to the seasonal nature of the work.

December 2012

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