Signs Of Livestock Numbers Stabilising

SCOTLAND, UK - National Farmers Union (NFU) Scotland has welcomed signs that the Scottish beef herd and sheep flock are showing signs of recovery in some parts of the country after several years of decline.
calendar icon 15 December 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

Scottish calf registration figures and a new report from SAC entitled “Response from the Hills” all suggest that, in some areas of Scotland, cow and sheep numbers have stabilised or are increasing.

Responding to falling livestock numbers in 2008, NFUS produced its own manifesto aimed at halting the decline and stopping depopulation, particularly of sheep, in some of Scotland’s more vulnerable areas. Elements of that manifesto – continuation of the Scottish Beef Calf Scheme and a more targeted Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme - were adopted by the Scottish Government.

Although faced with significant hikes in input costs for feed, fuel and fertiliser in 2011, the returns from the marketplace for beef and sheep have also been stronger and this has had a positive impact on livestock numbers in some areas, according to SAC.

Given the importance of the beef sector to Scotland, a beef calf support scheme has been in place since 2005. The Union is taking the opportunity to remind producers that a new Scottish Beef Scheme (SBS) will be introduced from 1 January 2012 to ensure a headage payment to the beef sector continues until new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) regulations come into force. This will mean that the existing Scottish Beef Calf Scheme will come to an end on 31 December 2011.

NFU Scotland’s Livestock Policy Manager Penny Johnston said: “Scottish calf registration figures and SAC’s latest report on the hill farming sector all point to our stock numbers stabilising and, in some areas, recovering. Significantly improved returns from the marketplace for beef and sheep have give some more confidence, albeit that confidence is tempered by rising input costs.

“NFU Scotland’s own manifesto to stimulate the beef and sheep sectors in our hills and uplands have been a factor in the modest recovery. A more targeted LFASS linked to activity is now in place and the beef calf scheme has served an ongoing purpose in helping to encourage some producers to continue keeping beef cows.

“The new SBS will see payment rates revamped to assist smaller producers. That will be particularly welcomed in vulnerable parts where smaller herd sizes are the norm.

“Margins in livestock production remain slim and it is clear from the SAC report that growing confidence in beef and sheep production is not shared across all parts of Scotland. There are still many areas where loss of livestock is generating a catalogue of concerns. Lower stock numbers or, in the worst case, land abandonment has huge implications for the environment and also has a massive impact on the local economy.

“We will continue to work with the supply chain to ensure fair marketplace returns. However, the outcomes of the ongoing CAP reform talks and future support arrangements remain fundamental to livestock production in Scotland. We will look at the potential for continued coupled support to the beef sector beyond 2014 and are already planning for the negotiations on a new rural development plan for Scotland, including LFA support. All these elements will have great significance for the future confidence of our livestock producers across the whole of Scotland.”

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