UK and EU cow numbers

Updated 5 March 2024

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 of December 2022, the total number of dairy cows in the UK greater than 12 months old stood at 2.66 million head, 10,000 head less than  at the same point in the previous year, according to data from Defra.
  • In December, the milking herd totalled 1.85 million head. This was 10,000 fewer animals that at the same point in the previous year.
  • The number of female cattle aged over 24 months saw a decline, falling by 3,000 head on the year to 230,000. The number of female dairy cattle aged between 12 and 24 months increased by 30,000 head compared to the previous year's value of 555,000.

Overview - EU

  • In 2022 there were 20.1 million dairy cows in the EU (ex-UK). This was 0.6% (125,000) less than in 2021
  • Germany had the largest dairy cow population within the EU (ex-UK). Last year, 3.8 million dairy cows were recorded in the nation, which accounted for 17% of the total EU (ex-UK) dairy population.
  • Malta continued to be the smallest milk producing nation within the EU (ex-UK), with just 6,120 dairy cows recorded in 2022.
  • The majority of EU (ex-UK) countries recorded an annual decline in cow numbers in 2022. France recorded the largest loss with 91,170 (2.7%) fewer animals that in the previous year.
  • Austria recorded the largest expansion within the EU (ex-UK) last year. The population reached 551,000 head, up 24,090 (4.6%) on the 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.

Contact us

This dataset was produced by our Data and Analysis Team. To find out more about the team, please visit the Data and Analysis team page.

If you need any further help, please email Martin, Dorian, Gavin or Esther at

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

Visit the Defra website for cow numbers in England by county

On the "Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June" page, under "English geographical breakdowns" cow numbers by county breakdowns in England are given in the "local authority" and "regional and county/ unitary authority" downloads.

Dairy cow numbers in the EU

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