UK and EU cow numbers

Updated 23 April 2021

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 2020, the total number of dairy cows in the UK stood at 2.65 million head, 40,000 head (-1.5%)  less than  at the same point in the previous year, according to data from Defra.
  • A shrinking milking herd accounted for approximately one third of the overall decline. In December, the milking herd totalled 1.86 million head. This was 12,000 fewer  animals that at the same point in the previous year.
  • The number of female cattle aged over 24 months also saw a decline, falling by 34,000 head on the year to 265,000. The number of female dairy cattle aged between 12 and 24 months increased by 8,000 head compared to the previous year's value of 519,000.
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Overview - EU

  • In 2020, there were 20.5 million dairy cows in the EU-ex UK. This was 1.1% (220,000 head) less than in 2019.
  • Germany had the largest dairy cow population within the EU-ex UK. Last year, 3.9 million dairy cows were recorded in the nation, which accounted for nearly 19% of the total EU-ex UK dairy population.
  • Malta continued to be the smallest milk producing nation within the EU-ex UK, with just 6,060 dairy cows recorded in 2020.
  • The majority of EU-ex-UK countries recorded an annual decline in cow numbers in 2020. Germany recorded the largest loss with 90,260 (2.2%) fewer animals that in the previous year.
  • Ireland recorded the largest expansion within the EU28 (ex-UK) last year. The population reached 1.456 million head, up 30,290 head (2.1%) on the year.
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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

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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