Populations of farmland and long-distance migratory birds have suffered steep, often dramatic, declines in the last few decades. The Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica is a small migratory farmland bird that breeds synanthropically in farms, particularly where livestock is reared. Populations of this species have suffered marked declines in different parts of its European breeding range. Here, we first report a dramatic decline of 8.4% per year of the number of breeding pairs and the extinction of 19.6% of the colonies in three agricultural areas in Northern Italy, which differ in general ecological conditions. This decline was estimated on a very large sample of 190 randomly chosen farms where breeding pairs were censused both in 2001 and 2010, and occurred at different rates in the three study areas. Barn Swallows declined most (9.3% per year) in an intensively cultivated area where colonies are widespread, and least (1.3% per year) in a hilly area with a comparatively small density of colonies. Variation in livestock farming significantly influenced population dynamics. Specifically, cessation of livestock farming at a given farm between the two census years resulted in a significantly steeper decline in the number of breeding pairs compared to farms where livestock farming was maintained. Our findings highlight the fact that European populations of Barn Swallows breeding in intensively cultivated agro-ecosystems may become significantly depleted in the next decades, and indicate that maintenance of livestock farming may contribute to buffering the population decline of this species.