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Agricultural land in the Cotswolds AONB comprises 176,393 ha. This is 86% of all land within the AONB. The main land uses are crops and fallow (41.29%), permanent and temporary grassland (43.79%). Other key land uses are woodland on farm holdings3 (6.13%), set-aside (4.47%) and rough grazing (2.11%).

The AONB has a similar proportion of land in crops and fallow and permanent and temporary grassland as England. However the AONB has more woodland on farm holdings (6.13%) compared to England (3.29%). The AONB also has more set-aside but less rough grazing.

Farms in the Cotswolds AONB

There are a total of 3,434 farm holdings in the Cotswolds AONB with an average size of 51.4 ha according to the 2007 survey. However it is important to note that farm holdings do not equate with farm businesses, many farm businesses cover several holdings.

Many holdings (43.21%) are under 5ha in size and do not have a significant income from agriculture. The next most numerous categories by size are those in the 5-20ha range (20.97%) followed by those over 100 ha (13.86%, 476 holdings). The AONB has a greater proportion of large holdings over 100 ha compared to England (12.78%).

An estimate can be made of the area occupied by each size category of holding (assuming that holdings in the 5-20ha range have an average size of 12.5ha, those in the 20-50ha range 35ha, etc). Based on these assumptions, holdings smaller than 5ha occupy just over 2% of the agricultural area of the AONB while those over 100ha occupy 70%. In terms of farm type, the category with the most holdings is ‘other’ (49.77%). These are closely associated with the smallest holdings referred to above. The next numerous categories are specialist cattle and sheep (21.46%), specialist cereals (13.57%), mixed (4.46%) and dairy (3.23%), see Figure 2-3. The AONB has more ‘other’ and cereal farms than England, but notably fewer dairy farms.


There has been a significant increase in the total number of the holdings recorded since 1990 from 2,180 to 3,022 in 2002 and 3,434 in 2007. This is mainly explained by a review of the register of holdings included in the Defra June Survey which caused an increase in the number of small holdings recorded across England. However, there have also been more small holdings created as a result of farm restructuring and the division and sale of farms in lots. In terms of farm type, over the period 1990 to 2007, there have been increases in the number of holdings categorised as cereals, horticulture, pig and poultry, and cattle and sheep. Reductions have occurred in the number of dairy holdings (239 to 111) and mixed holdings (247 to 153).


The main crops grown in the AONB are winter wheat, oilseed rape and spring barley. Changes in cropping the AONB over the period 1990 to 2007


There has been a 30% reduction in the total area of cereals grown in the Cotswolds since 1990, mainly as a result of an increase in the area of set-aside, as well as oil seed rape. The decline in the area of winter barley is particularly notable. It is also worth noting that the area of spring barley (for malting and/or feed) has recovered in recent years, in part encouraged by agri-environment scheme spring cropping options.

The area of oil seed rape grown in the AONB has increased by 89% to 12,900 ha since 1990. The area of another key break crop, field beans, grew in 2002 and has since declined. The area of maize has increased to around 1,500 ha. Set-aside has fluctuated from 3,860ha in 1990, to 14,470ha in 1995 to 7,880ha in 2007.


In common with other parts of the country, there has been a decrease in the number of decline in the number of dairy cows and pigs, which have decreased by around 55%. There are now around 11,500 dairy cows and 23,000 pigs in the AONB. The total number of beef cows has reduced by 8% over the period 1990 to 2007, this includes a strong recovery since 2002. There are now around 10,800 beef cows in the AONB.

The total number of sheep has reduced by 23% over the same period. There has been a slight recovery since 2002 to 258,500 presently however the number of ewes, the breeding flock, has continued to decline.

Agricultural labour

The agricultural labour force in the Cotswolds AONB stands at 5,021, including 3,287 farmers, 256 farm managers and 1,478 farm workers, see Table 2-1. 65% of farmers, 44% of farm managers and 59% of farm workers are part-time or casual


The total labour force in the Cotswolds has decreased by 6.1% over the period 1990 to 2007. This overall trend masks an increase in the number of farmers (probably reflected in the increase in the number of holdings) but a significant 45% decrease in the number of farm workers. This includes a 55% fall in the number of full time workers and an 18% decrease in the number of part-time workers. Labour intensity, expressed as the Number of Whole Time Equivalent5 (WTE) labour over Total Agricultural Area has fallen in the Cotswolds AONB from 0.020 WTE/ha to 0.018 WTE/ha over the period 2002-2007.

These trends reflect the restructuring process that has occurred across the farming sector over the past two decades. Maintaining skills and a knowledge of the land will be a key challenge for the future.