Hardly fewer dairy cows, but smaller pig herd in 2022

Cows grazing out in the field.
© Shutterstock / Marc Venema
At 1.57 million, the national dairy cattle herd remained virtually unchanged in 2022. The herd was 7 percent smaller than five years earlier. The national pig herd decreased again last year, while the size of the goat herd increased slightly. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of definitive figures from the 2022 Agricultural Census.

National livestock herd
YearDairy goats (2017=100)Veal calves (2017=100)Dairy and calving cows (2 yrs and over) (2017=100)Pigs (2017=100)Young dairy cattle (2017=100)

As of 1 April 2022, the Netherlands had 3.8 million head of cattle, 0.4 percent more than one year previously. Relative to 2017, it was down by 6 percent. Just as in 2021, dairy cows took up 41 percent. The municipalities of Sûdwest-Fryslân and De Fryske Marren had the largest dairy cow herds: 65.6 thousand and 35.5 thousand, respectively. The number of young bovines rose by 1.6 percent to 982 thousand.

In 2017, the Phosphate Reduction Plan came into force in the Dutch dairy farming sector. Farms had to dispose of dairy cows to stop herd growth. In 2018, the cattle herd fell below 4 million for the first time since 2013.

Number of dairy holdings declining for years

Last year, there were 14.7 thousand holdings with dairy cattle, 3 percent less than in 2021 and representing a decline by nearly 20 percent relative to 2017. The average herd size per holding increased to 107 head in 2022 from 103 on average in the previous year, while in 2017 the average dairy farm had 94 head.

Last year, the largest holdings, with on average 151 head each, were located in Flevoland province, followed by the northern provinces of Groningen (128), Fryslân (125) and Drenthe (121).

National cattle herd
PeriodsDairy and calving cows (2 yrs and over) (million)Young dairy cattle (million)Young beef cattle (million)Veal calves (million)Other bovines (million)Bulls (2 yrs and over) (million)

Slightly fewer veal calves

In 2022, the number of veal calves decreased by 0.4 percent to slightly over 1 million, remaining unchanged from the previous year, but representing a 9-percent increase on 2017.

Almost half of all veal calves are kept in Gelderland province (478 thousand). In this province, the veal calf herd grew by 11 percent over a five-year period. A quarter of the veal calf herd could be found in the municipalities of Ede (29 thousand) and Barneveld (118 thousand).

Pig herd slimmed down again

In 2022, the pig herd decreased by 1.6 percent year on year to a total of 11.3 million. The pig herd was 9 percent smaller than in 2017. It has shown several declines since 2020, partly as a result of a buy-out scheme for livestock farmers and the Subsidy Scheme for the Remediation of Pig Farms (SRV).

Relative to 2021, the number of pig farms fell by 4 percent, to just under 3.3 thousand. In a span of five years, the average number of pigs per holding grew by nearly 20 percent, to 3.4 thousand This was mainly due to the fact that relatively small holdings have stopped rearing pigs over the last few years.

Nearly half of the pig population are kept in Noord-Brabant. In this province, the number of holdings with pigs decreased by a third over a five-year period. The decrease in the total pig herd was slower at 13 percent. In 2022, Land van Cuijk (682 thousand) and Venray (559 thousand) were the municipalities with the largest pig populations.

Pig herd per holding
YearAverage pig herd per farm

Goat herd keeps growing

In 2022, the dairy goat herd grew by 1 percent to nearly 489 thousand. This is a 30-percent increase relative to five years previously. More than half of the dairy goat herd could be found in the provinces of Noord-Brabant (137 thousand) and Gelderland (117 thousand) last year. The goat herds in these two provinces did not grow further, the first time since a ban on goat breeding was implemented in 2017.

In Noord-Brabant, the dairy goat herd declined by 3.4 percent year on year. Gelderland’s dairy goat herd remained more or less the same size with a 0.2-percent reduction. Relative to 2017, the two provinces saw the number of dairy goats increase by 16 percent (Noord-Brabant) and 31 percent (Gelderland).