Holdings, agricultural area and livestock

Updated: 8 February 2023

Next update: Not yet determined

Change in agricultural holdings
Change in agricultural holdings
2021 - 2022

About the statistics

The statistics provide information about the number of agricultural holdings, their size and type of farming and the input of agricultural area and livestock.

Agricultural holding

A single unit both technically and economically, which has single management, and which produces agricultural products. The holding is independent of municipality boundaries. The headquarter of the holding shall be located to an agricultural property.


The natural person or legal person which is responsible for operating the agricultural holding. In the Central Register of Establishments and Enterprises natural person is registered as sole proprietorship. Other types of holder are general partnership, private limited company, foundation, state, municipality etc.

Holders are often classified into natural person and legal person. Furthermore, natural person is distributed by gender. Natural persons amount to about 95 per cent of the holders. Group holdings are classified as general partnership and included in legal person.

Agricultural area

Agricultural area is the sum of arable land, surface-cultivated meadows and infield pastureland.

Arable land

Agricultural area that has been ploughed and can still be ploughed. The area can be used for cultivation of field crops or meadows and pasture renewed by ploughing.

Surface- cultivated meadows

Agricultural area that is mostly cleared and levelled in such a way that it can be harvested mechanically.

Infield pastureland

Agricultural area that is suitable for grazing but cannot be mechanically harvested. At least 50 per cent of the area shall be covered by grasses or other plants that stand grazing.

Agricultural area in use

Agricultural land that is harvested at least once during a year, including sown or planted area of permanent crops, where no harvest has been produced so far. Arable land temporarily fallow for one year is included.

Type of farming and standard output

The classification of agricultural holdings by farm type is common for all EU- and EEA-countries. The type of farming of a holding is based on the relative contribution of different crop and livestock enterprises to the holdings total production. Including 1999, the classification of farm type was based on standard gross margin (SGM) as the common measurement unit of the various crop and livestock enterprises. As from 2010, SGM is replaced by standard output (SO) as common measurement unit. At the same time, some other minor methodological changes were done. Due to this, the type of farming from 2010 and onwards is not fully comparable with earlier type of farming.

The standard output (SO) for crop and livestock products is the regional average monetary value of the agricultural output at farm gate price over a reference period of five years. The SO is excluded direct payments, value added tax and taxes on products.

The total standard output of an agricultural holding is the total SO for all crop and livestock products produced by the holding within one year, i.e. SO per area unit of relevant crops multiplied by the total crop areas, and SO per head of relevant livestock multiplied by the number of livestock.

County and municipality where the headquarter of the holding is located, size of holding expressed in decares of utilised agricultural area, type of holder and type of farming of the holding.

Name: Holdings, agricultural area and livestock
Topic: Agriculture, forestry, hunting and fishing

Not yet determined

Division for Housing, Property, Spatial and Agricultural Statistics

County, municipality

Annual, preliminary and final statistics

Statistics are reported to both EU and FAO.

Data file with anonymous individual data is stored at Statistics Norway.

The purpose is to obtain information about the number of agricultural holdings, their size and type of farming and the input of agricultural area and livestock in the agricultural industry.

Statistics Norway has carried out agricultural censuses in 1907, 1918, 1929, 1939, 1949, 1959, 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999 and 2010. The censuses in 1979, 1989 and 2010 comprised also all agricultural and forestry properties. Annually since 2000, Statistics Norway has updated a population of agricultural holdings and holders. The core of this population is holdings applying governmental subsidies, while other holdings are identified by matching several administrative and statistical registers.

The main users of the statistics are the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, the Agricultural Budget Commission, the Norwegian Farmers Union, the Norwegian Smallholders Union etc.

No external users have access to the statistics and analyses before they are published and accessible simultaneously for all users on at 8 am. Prior to this, a minimum of three months' advance notice is given in the statistics release Calendar. This is one of Statistics Norway's key principles for ensuring that all users are treated equally.

The Norwegian Agriculture Agency is publishing statistics on livestock and use of agricultural area based on holdings applying governmental subsidies. Statistics Norway includes holdings which do not apply governmental subsidies when working out statistics on the structure of agricultural holdings. Holdings not applying governmental subsidies have in recent years constituted 1 - 2 per cent of all holdings and just one per cent of the utilised agricultural area.

Statistics Act §§2-1, 3-2.

Regulation (EC) No 1166/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council

The statistics comprises all active farms with production for sale. Active farms are defined as all holdings applying governmental subsidies together with a minor number of other holdings which cultivate crops or keep livestock above certain thresholds.

Holdings applying governmental subsidies constitute the bulk of the annual population of holdings. Holdings not applying governmental subsidies were identified by combining information from various other administrative data sources and statistical registers. Important sources at Statistics Norway and outside are:

  • The Central Register of Establishments and Enterprises (Statistics Norway)
  • The Census of Agriculture 2010 (Statistics Norway)
  • Sample surveys of agriculture (Statistics Norway)
  • The Register of Approved Carcasses (Norwegian Agriculture Agency)
  • The Register of Deliveries of cereals and oil-seeds (Norwegian Agriculture Agency)
  • The Register of Bovine Animals (Norwegian Food Safety Authority)
  • The Income Tax Return including supplementary forms (Norwegian Tax Administration)

The statistics are based on collocation of data files that have been separately edited when established.

1 - 2 per cent of the holdings do not apply governmental subsidies. For most of these holdings, utilised agricultural area and livestock numbers are derived from administrative or statistical registers.

Not relevant

Figures are not presented if there is a risk of identifying any holding.

Broadly speaking, the statistics are comparable with information from previous agricultural censuses. In censuses before 1999, the census date has mostly been 20 June. In the years 1999 - 2016, the census (Reference) date was 31 July, except for sheep. As from 2017, the reference date is 1 October.

Including 1979, censuses covered all cultivation of crops and all livestock, irrespective of holding size. However, in census publications, many tables were limited to holdings operating at least 5 decares of agricultural area. Almost all agriculture ran as business took place at these holdings, whereas holdings operating less than 5 decares generally represented hobby-like production for consumption in own household.

From 1989 to 1999 the number of joint operations (group holdings) with cow or goat milk production increased. When applying subsidies, these holdings were registered without utilised agricultural area. Areas used to produce feed for the joint operations were registered on holdings belonging to the partners in the joint operations. Due to this, the threshold of 5 decares agricultural area was repealed. The change also included horticultural holdings. As from the Census of Agriculture 1999 and onwards, the statistics include holdings operating less than 5 decares of utilised agricultural area on condition that crop areas (i.e. vegetables, fruit, berries, nurseries, flowers and ornamental plants) or livestock numbers are above certain thresholds.

Including 1999, the holding was limited by municipalty boundaries. As from 1999, holdings may have activity in several municipalities, e.g. operating rented agricultural area. In statistics, all owned or rented agricultural area operated by the holding is allocated to the municipality where the headquarter of the holding is located. Increase in renting of agricultural area may cause significant changes in total agricultural area for some municipalities.

In 2009, a governmental subsidy was introduced for holdings keeping at least 25 beehives. This caused an increase of about 300 holdings with solely beehives.

Agricultural area and crops

In previous censuses including 1989, lawns and ornamental gardens on holdings were included in the agricultural area. In the Census of Agriculture 1989, lawns and ornamental gardens amounted to 46 000 decares. As from the Census of Agriculture 1999, lawns and ornamental gardens are excluded.

In the 1990-ties, the agricultural area subsidies were extended to unfertilized fenced-in pasture, so-called infield pastureland. In previous years infield pastureland had to be fertilized to be eligible for subsidies and were referred to as fertilized pastureland. In previous censuses, fertilized pastureland was part of natural meadows and surface-cultivated meadows. The introduction of infield pastureland has included some new areas as agricultural area. From 1989 to 1999, the total area of surface-cultivated meadows and infield pastureland increased by 418 000 decares. This increase must also be seen in the light of the fact that placing more emphasis on area-based subsidies made it more profitable for the holdings to include marginal agricultural land in their subsidy applications. Another reason is the introduction of official requirements regarding area for spreading of manure.

It should be noticed that as from the Census of Agriculture 1999, crop areas are given in decares without decimals. In previous years, all crop areas were given in decares with one decimal. Thus, areas less than one decare is rarely included in 1999 and onwards. This is most related to potatoes, field-grown vegetables, fruit and berries, and particularly for the number of holdings growing these crops. Including 2016, greenhouse area was reported in m2. As from 2017, greenhouse area is reported in decares without decimal.

The utilised Agricultural area was at a peak in 2001 With 10,47 million decares. From 2005 to 2013, the agricultural area, included unutilised Agricultural area, decreased by 4.7 per cent. According to information given by the Norwegian Agriculture Agency, introduction of digital farm maps in this period caused about 3.3 per cent decrease of the Agricultural area. A reason for this decrease could be more accurate area measuring. Another reason could be that previous decrease in areas was not recorded before the new maps were implemented. The decrease of agricultural area excluded new maps is estimated to 1.4 per cent in the period 2005 - 2013.

In the years 1999 - 2016, the livestock numbers refer to census (reference) date 31 July, except sheep for which the date is 1 June, or the day they are released for grazing. In censuses before 1999, the census date has mostly been 20 June. Changing the date by 1-2 months may have some influence on the livestock figures. However, optimizing the number of animals in relation to the reference date for subsidies is probably of more significance. As from 2017, the reference date is 1 October for most livestock.

The most important source of error is that holders may fill in incorrect information when applying governmental subsidies. In most cases this will be discovered and corrected by the local agricultural authority. Nevertheless, errors that do not influence the holders amount of subsidy can be ignored. Earlier, errors may also arise from the scanning of forms despite of the fact that controls were executed.

Regarding holdings not applying governmental subsidies, the statistics are based on several data sources which are updated at different times. These registers may contain errors or lack of information. E.g., estimates of cereal areas based on deliveries of grain and estimates of livestock numbers based on approved carcasses may deviate from the real figures.

Sometimes it is difficult to decide whether a holding not applying for governmental subsidies is operated on the reference date or is ceased. There is also a risk that not all eligible holdings are identified during the examination of data sources.

Not relevant