Year-on-year comparisons between 2016 and 2017 December Survey results show:
- A slight fall in the total number of poultry of 112,000 (0.8 per cent) to 14.3 million - compared to the 1.3 per cent annual increase reported in the 2017 June Census results. The December figure is three per cent higher than the ten year average of 13.9 million.
- A fall in the number of broilers of 347,000 (five per cent) to 6.3 million - in line with the four per cent fall reported in the 2017 June Census results. The figure is 12 per cent lower than the ten year average of 7.2 million.
- An increase in birds for laying eggs for eating of 136,000 (two per cent), with the number of layers rising to 6.6 million - compared with an eight per cent increase in the 2017 June Census results. The figure is 22 per cent higher than the ten year average of 5.4 million.
- An increase in breeding birds of 122,000 (11 per cent), with the number rising to 1.3 million - compared to a three per cent drop reported in the 2017 June Census results. The figure is eight per cent higher than the ten year average of 1.2 million.
In the longer term, layer numbers have been increasing, with layers outnumbering broilers. (Contrast this with 2008 when there were 8.0 million broilers to 3.8 million layers). These changes have also been reflected in the income figures published in January, with the value of eggs being greater than for poultry meat.
Chart 9 shows trends over the past ten years from the December Survey and June Census for broilers (used for meat production), laying fowls (used for egg production) and breeding birds (used to produce broiler and layer chicks). It should be noted that there is some inherent variability in the annual poultry data, which can be affected by short-term operational factors.
For some years, the chart shows large differences in the number of broilers and layers between June and December. This variability can occur if large poultry units reduce the number of birds on their holdings over the survey date, for operational reasons such as the cleaning of premises. Also the poultry production cycle is very short compared to other livestock, which provides producers with the flexibility required to change production levels in response to market conditions.
Over the past ten years total poultry numbers have fluctuated around 14 million. However since 2013 there has been a drop in the number of broilers, and an increase in the number of poultry for laying eggs.
Chart 9: Poultry, June and December 2007 to 2017
Broilers fluctuated around 8 million until 2013, since when broiler numbers have fallen to around 6 million. There were 6.3 million broilers in December 2017.
The figures for laying fowls had been steady at about four million until 2009, before increasing steadily to between six and seven million. Over the ten year period the December Survey results show an increase of 2.3 million (53 per cent).
The trends in the annual number of breeding birds have been fairly constant with the December Survey and June Census both averaging about 1.2 million birds over the ten year period.