Results from the June 2021 Scottish Agricultural Census

Paul Richardson ,
13 Oct 2021

In his latest blog, our Policy Adviser Paul Richardson has summarised the findings from the Scottish Agricultural Census which was held earlier this year.

Provisional results from the June 2021 Scottish Agricultural Census show a more positive picture in what has been a challenging period. The census covers land use, cropping, livestock, and employment on agricultural holdings.

Although the total area of cereals grown in Scotland was similar to 2020, total cereal production is predicted to be around 3.1 million tonnes with yields generally above the five-year average. Potato and strawberry areas remained constant, with strawberries making up over half of the total soft fruit area, and the area used to grow vegetables for human consumption increased 5 per cent to 22,100 ha. First estimates for the 2021 cereal and oilseed rape harvest are also available.

Turning to livestock, the national cattle herd remained around 1,720,000, close to the 60-year low of 2020, but the falling trend in cattle numbers appears to have halted with a rise in the number of calves held on farms. Cattle numbers in Scotland peaked at 2.68 million in 1974. Dairy numbers remain little changed over the last 10 years, increasing only very slightly in 2021 to 174,200.

As expected, following a mild winter and promising spring, the census results reflect a good lambing season, with breeding ewe and lamb numbers up 1 per cent on 2020. The total number of breeding ewes stands at 2.57 million. The number of pigs has also increased for the third year running, though this is likely due to a shortage in processing capacity as the total breeding herd has fallen 9 per cent to 32,800.

The labour shortages now being faced are unlikely to be reflected in the survey, with the total workforce on farm holdings increasing slightly to 67,400. Most of the workforce are owner-occupiers – those who own or rent their farm and work on it.

The data is collected from across Scotland via an annual agricultural census, coordinated by the Rural and Environmental Sciences and Analytical Services (RESAS) Division of the Scottish Government.