Edition 2021

Foto omschrijving: Cows in a semi-open barn, staring at the camera

How many farm animals are there in the Netherlands?

In 2021, the total pig population in the Netherlands declined somewhat, to slightly under 11.4 million pigs. The poultry herd declined last year as well to nearly 100 million. At 3.8 million head, the size of the national cattle herd remained virtually unchanged; the dairy goat herd grew slightly to 482 thousand.

How many farm animals in the Netherlands?850,000Sheep11,400,000Pigs3,800,000Cattle99,900,000Chickens480,000Dairy goats

Fewer pigs

According to the Agricultural Census on 1 April 2021, there were 512 thousand (4.3 percent) fewer pigs than in 2020. The size of the national pig herd has fluctuated around 12 million for years. However, they are kept at an increasingly lower number of holdings. The number of pig farms has dropped from 6.5 thousand in 2011 to 3.4 thousand in 2021.

The decline in pig population and pig farms is partly the result of a buy-out scheme for livestock farmers to control ammonia emissions as well as the Subsidy Scheme for the Remediation of Pig Farms (SRVnoot1).

National livestock herd (2011 = 100)
Jaartal Dairy goats Sheep Pigs Other cattle (mainly beef) Dairy cattle including young bovines Poultry
2011 100 100 100 100 100 100
2012 109 96 98 99 100 98
2013 110 95 98 99 105 101
2014 118 88 98 98 108 106
2015 131 87 101 97 111 110
2016 138 72 100 98 115 109
2017 150 73 100 99 108 109
2018 172 80 100 104 99 108
2019 182 84 99 108 94 105
2020 190 82 96 108 95 105
2021* 192 78 92 106 95 103
* provisional figures

Fewer chickens

The poultry herd is 2 percent smaller than in the previous year. This decline is due to a reduced number of chickens for meat production: this number fell by 2 million to a total of 47 million (–‍4.3 percent). On the other hand, the number of laying hens rose slightly, by 119 thousand, to 43.3 million. 

No more growth in dairy goat populations in Gelderland and Noord-Brabant

Over the past two decades, the dairy goat herd has increased nearly fivefold. As of 2021, the Dutch dairy goat herd stands at 482 thousand, a 1.2‑percent increase on the previous year. Most dairy goats are kept in the provinces of Noord-Brabant (141 thousand) and Gelderland (117 thousand). Over half of the total dairy goat herd is found in these two provinces.

In view of the potential health risks for residents living near goat farms, a ban on goat breedingnoot2 has been implemented in several provinces. The goat herd nevertheless grew continuously up to 2020 inclusive, in both Noord-Brabant and Gelderland; this rise over many years has levelled off by 2021.

National dairy goat herd (x 1,000)
Jaartal Gelderland province Noord-Brabant province
2011 50.26 83.20
2012 55.95 94.10
2013 58.01 93.85
2014 67.85 97.53
2015 78.69 108.71
2016 84.63 106.71
2017 89.10 117.36
2018 104.99 128.68
2019 113.14 134.68
2020 117.38 141.37
2021* 117.23 141.38
* provisional figures

Cattle population hardly changed

This year, the cattle herd has declined by 17 thousand (0.4 percent) year-on-year. The dairy cow herd stands at 1.57 million, 1.4 percent less than in 2020. The number of veal calves is down by 2.3 percent to over 1 million head. The threshold of 1 million veal calves was crossed for the first time in 2018.

The cattle population grew especially between 2014 and 2016 after the phasing out of milk quotas. Due to a sharp rise in the dairy cow herd, phosphate emissions exceeded the national ceiling. In 2017, the phosphate reduction plan came into force in the dairy sector; Dutch dairy farmers had to reduce the size of their herds to halt livestock herd growth. The national cattle herd declined in 2017, 2018 and 2019 as a result. It showed a slight increase again in 2020 (+0.7 percent).

National cattle herd (x million)
Dairy and veal cows (>2 yrs) Young cattle for dairy farming Veal calves Other bovines
2011 1.5 1.2 0.9 0.3
2012 1.5 1.2 0.9 0.3
2013 1.6 1.2 0.9 0.3
2014 1.6 1.3 0.9 0.3
2015 1.6 1.3 0.9 0.3
2016 1.7 1.3 1.0 0.2
2017 1.7 1.2 1.0 0.2
2018 1.6 1.0 1.0 0.2
2019 1.6 0.9 1.1 0.2
2020 1.6 0.9 1.1 0.2
2021* 1.6 1.0 1.0 0.2

The questions


Buy-out scheme for livestock farmers to control ammonia emissions and Subsidy Scheme for the Remediation of Pig Farms (SRV)

As of 1 January 2013, intensive livestock holdings in the Netherlands must adhere to a nationwide Decree on low emission livestock housing systems. The decree states maximum levels of ammonia emission. With its Action Plan on ammonia emission reduction at livestock farms, the Dutch government implemented a policy of tolerance under the said Decree on low emission housing systems. Those holdings intending to convert in the long term could avail of a buy-out scheme up to 1 January 2020 in order to reach compliance. Pig farmers participating in the buy-out scheme did not need to convert their pig stalls under the Decree. Nevertheless, they had to achieve an equally large emission reduction compared to a low emission housing system as from 1 January 2013, but by applying different measures. The scheme also allowed those farmers who intended to cease production within a foreseeable time to continue for several more years. Such farmers were unwilling to make any more large investments in their holdings. Those farmers wishing to cease production could also register for the Subsidy Scheme for the Remediation of Pig Farms (SRV). Participants in the buy-out scheme were however not allowed to join the SRV and as such these farmers did not receive compensation for loss of value or demolition of the stables.

Goat farm restrictions

On 7 July 2017, the province of Noord-Brabant imposed a ban on goat breeding due to possible health risks for local residents. Gelderland province followed over one month after this with its own local ban. More provinces followed at a later stage. The provincial ban put an end to the expansion of existing goat farms, the establishment of new goat farms and the conversion of holdings into goat farms.


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Explanation of symbols

Empty cell figure not applicable
. figure is unknown, insufficiently reliable or confidential
* provisional figure
** revised provisional figure
(between two numbers) inclusive
0 (0.0) less than half of unit concerned
2016–2017 2016 to 2017 inclusive
2016/2017 average for the years 2016 up to and including 2017
2016/’17 crop year, financial year, school year etc., beginning in 2016 and ending in 2017
2004/’05–2016/’17 crop year etc. 2004/’05 up to and including 2016/’17

Due to rounding, some totals may not correspond to the sum of the separate figures.

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