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UK and EU cow numbers

Updated 3 July 2019

These figures track annual changes in cow numbers in the UK and within the EU. You can also dig deeper into the statistics and have a look at cow numbers by country, and for England, by county.

Overview - UK

  • As at December 2018, the total number of dairy cows in the UK stood at 2.73 million head, 71,000 head (-2.5%) less than at the same point in the previous year, according to data from Defra.
  •  A shrinking milking herd accounting for just over a third of the overall decline. In December, the milking herd totalled 1.88 million head. This was 25,000 fewer animals that at the same point in the previous year.
  •  The number of female cattle aged over 24 months also saw a large decline, falling by 26,000 head on the year to 324,000 head. The number of female dairy cattle aged between 12 and 24 months fell by 20,000 head compared to the previous year, to 524,000 head.
  •  With fewer youngstock coming through, it is likely we will continue to see declines in the national milking herd.

Overview - EU

  • In 2018, there were 22.9 million dairy cows in the EU-28. This was a 1.6% (373,000 head) less than in 2017.
  • Germany had the largest dairy cow population within the EU-28. Last year, 4.1 million dairy cows were recorded in the nation, which accounted for nearly a fifth of the total EU-28 dairy population.
  • Malta continued to be the smallest milk producing nation within the EU, with just 6,230 dairy cows recorded in 2018.
  • The majority of EU countries recorded an annual decline in cow numbers in 2018. The Netherlands recorded the largest loss with 113,000 (6.8%) fewer animals that in the previous year.
  • Poland recorded the largest expansion within the EU28 last year. The population reached 2.2 million head, up 61,000 head (2.8%) on the year.
  • Last year, the UK accounted for 8.3% of the total EU-28 dairy cow population, at 1.9 million head. This was 9,000 cow less (0.5%) than in the previous year.

Additional information

Please note, different methods are used for calculating cow numbers in the UK. Cattle Tracing System (CTS) data has been used by Wales since 2004, England since 2005 and Scotland since 2006. Since 2005, Northern Ireland has used APHIS.

Download datasets

Dairy cow numbers in the UK Average size of dairy herd in UK by country Distribution of cows in UK by herd size by country Cow numbers in England by county Dairy cow numbers in the EU