TOTAL poultry numbers in Northern Ireland rose significantly, according to a recent agricultural census.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) report said more favourable animal health factors were largely behind the increase.

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It is an estimate of numbers including crop areas, livestock, farmers and farm workers on the survey date of 1 June 2023.

Poultry as a whole was up 24% on 2022 figures, with 25.6 million birds recorded.

The total number of hens in lay increased from 5.2 million to 5.8 million, with a further 1.8 million pullets in the rear.

Five-year average

Broiler numbers increased by over 31% from 11.9 million in 2022 to 15.6 million – a figure closer to the five-year average.

“Other poultry” was up by by almost 294% compared to June 2022 – from 97,000 in 2022 to almost 384,000 in 2023.

By contrast, the pig sector recorded a decrease in numbers of 8% in total, to 682,000. The decline in pig numbers was primarily due to a reduced number of weaners, growers and suckling piglets, said Daera.