Thousands fewer sheep in Drenthe due to bluetongue virus

The number of sheep in Drenthe decreased last year. Compared to 2022, 10 percent fewer sheep were kept on farms, according to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

The main culprit is the bluetongue virus, which broke out last summer and led to the deaths of thousands of sheep.

In Drenthe, the so-called sheep herd still consisted of around 41,300 sheep in December 2022. A year later, when bluetongue had spread, there were still 36,900.

The decrease in Drenthe (-10 percent) is slightly higher than the national average (-8 percent), even though this is the largest decrease in years. At the end of 2023, Statistics Netherlands still counted around 662,000 sheep on farms in the Netherlands.

In North Holland, the so-called sheep herd shrank the most. With a decrease of around 15,500 sheep, there was a decline of 16 percent in the province. Many livestock farms became infected, especially in the north of North Holland and some municipalities north of the Zaan region.

The virus also hit Utrecht and Friesland hard, where the number of sheep was about 15 and 12 percent lower than a year earlier. Only in North Brabant were more sheep kept at the end of 2023 than a year earlier.

The impact of the virus on the number of goats, which can also become ill from the virus, appears limited: the goat herd has decreased by 1.6 percent compared to 2022. This decrease is in line with the decrease of the previous year. The number of pigs and cattle at the end of last year was also slightly lower than a year earlier.