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Livestock in EU countries shrunk by almost 9 percent in 20 years

Livestock in the European Union has declined by just under 9% over the past twenty years. This is shown by recent figures on the European food chain. Between 2001 and 2020 the total livestock for pigs, cattle, sheep and goats in the EU decreased by an estimated 8.9%.

The largest decrease was recorded for sheep. The decrease in the number of pigs was relatively modest. In 2020 there were 146 million head of pigs, 76 million head of cattle and an estimated 75 million sheep and goats on farms in the EU. A majority of the livestock is kept in only a few EU Member States.

About a quarter (23.3%) of the cattle was found in France. In Spain, a quarter of the pigs (22.4%) and sheep (24.8%) of the EU populations were kept. Greece (28.8%) and Spain (21.4%) together accounted for more than half of all goats.

The livestock density index is calculated as the stock of animals per hectare of cultivated land. On this basis, in 2016 the highest livestock densities were registered in the Netherlands (3.8 livestock units per hectare of cultivated land), Malta (2.9) and Belgium (2.8). In contrast, livestock farming was relatively extensive in the Baltic countries and in Bulgaria, with less than 0.30 livestock units per hectare.

Some EU countries are specialized in livestock farming. For example, Ireland accounted for 8.5% of cattle last year (almost the same level as in Spain), while Denmark accounted for 9.2% of EU pigs (almost the same level as in France).

There are also large differences per farm per country. Livestock farms in Denmark (200 livestock per farm), the Netherlands (185) and Belgium (148) were again particularly large. On the other hand, there were less than 10 animals per farm in Hungary, Slovenia, Lithuania, Greece, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania.

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