Northern Ireland has seen an increase year-over-year in the number of broiler chickens, egg layers and pigs, the country’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs announced.

The preliminary results of the June 2017 Agricultural Census have been released by DAERA. The statistics have been compiled from a survey of farm businesses augmented by administrative data. The preliminary results were based on the first 9,000 returned surveys. DAERA cautions that the statistics will be updated as more surveys are returned, but indicated that the preliminary statistics show a strong indication of production trends.

The final census results will be released in November.

Broiler and layer populations

The preliminary survey showed that the number of laying hens as of June 1 was around 3.9 million, an increase of 10 percent. That population increase is a reflection of an upward trend in layer numbers since 2013, DAERA stated, and new producers have entered the egg industry.

Northern Ireland broiler numbers have also increased, with a rise of about 9 percent when compared to June 2016.

Northern Ireland pigs

Northern Ireland’s pig herd has increased by about 8 percent overall, while sow numbers have risen by about 3 percent to 41,400.

According to DAERA, most pig categories are showing an upward trend, but the growth in the number of fattening pigs is largely what is most responsible for the increase in total numbers.

Sheep and cattle numbers

The number of sheep in Northern Ireland has reached about 2.1 million, which is the most the country has reported since 2006. Total cattle numbers have remained unchanged when compared to 2016, although the number of beef cattle is up by 1 percent while the number of dairy cattle in Northern Ireland decreased slightly.

Labor force

The size of Northern Ireland’s agricultural labor force is mostly unchanged when compared to the previous year, with about 47,800 workers.