NFU Scotland | /farmings-contribution-to-the-countryside.aspx

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Farming Footsteps

To mark our centenary, NFU Scotland wanted to do something special to show the pride we have in what our members are doing every day across Scotland.

In this short film we follow the footsteps of new generation member Iain Mackay of Mull who tells a familiar story; that of a young lad who grows up with one ambition - to be a farmer.

With grateful thanks to Martin Kennedy of Lurgan, Aberfeldy, who allowed us to film on his stunning farm.

 

Farming's Contribution to the Countryside

The Profile of Scottish Agriculture

Scotland has a very diverse agricultural industry – producing everything from soft fruits and vegetables, to grain for malting and feed markets, and milk, beef and lamb from intensive and extensive grassland systems.  This is largely down to Scotland’s physical geography – landscape, topography, soils, climate, etc., rather than because of farm structures and management – although the latter also have a significant influence on Scottish agriculture.

 

Cattle and Sheep

Some farms specialise in either cattle or sheep production, but many farms keep both.  In Scotland, cattle and sheep are usually reared extensively - they are mainly fed outside and on grass and they are only housed in the worst weather or when they are lambing or calving.

Many of these farms are in Less Favoured Areas (LFA) and the combination of beef and sheep, sometimes mixed with a small area of cropped land, brings various benefits in terms of biodiversity and landscape.

Beef Cattle

  • The beef industry is the single largest sector of Scottish agriculture. Scotch beef is world renowned for its quality.
  • Scotland had just over 436,000 breeding beef cows in 2015.
  • Total production of beef in 2015 was worth more than £675 million.
  • Beef cattle are kept on almost 9,300 holdings.
  • Scotland has almost 30 per cent of the UK herd of breeding cattle and 4% of the EU herd.
  •  The UK beef herd is the second largest in Europe, after France.

Some farmers rear beef cattle from birth until they are ready for slaughter.  Farmers in the North and West of Scotland, for example, tend to rear beef cattle until they are between 6 and 12 months old and then sell them as ‘stores’ to farmers in lowland areas for fattening.  Some lowland farmers only keep cattle for fattening or ‘finishing’ and do not have any breeding animals.

Beef is also produced from the male calves and unwanted female calves from the dairy herd.  The majority of beef production operates through a quality assurance scheme with beef sold under the Specially Selected Scotch Beef brand.

Sheep

  • There are around 2,600,000 ewes in Scotland.
  • 3 million finished lambs produced meat worth £176 million in 2015. 
  • Breeding sheep were kept on around 12,700 holdings.  
  • The average flock size in Scotland is just over 200 ewes. 
  • Scotland has more than 20 per cent of the UK breeding flock. 
  • The UK has the largest sheep flock in the EU – over a quarter of the total EU flock.

The industry is organised into three (stratified) tiers: hill, upland and lowland.  Hill flocks are in the main breeding flocks with the majority of ewe lambs retained as flock replacements for older ewes, which are generally sold on to farms on the lower ground after four lamb crops.  Upland flocks usually produce ‘mule’ (cross-bred) ewe lambs which are sought after by lowland breeders to cross with meat breed ‘terminal sires’.  Lowland flocks tend to benefit from comparatively better climate, improved soil type and better grazing which combine to produce quality prime lamb.

Dairy Farms

  • Scotland had 176,000 dairy cows in 2015.  
  • 1.5 billion litres of milk were produced, worth more than £352 million.
  • Some 1,000 holdings had dairy cattle with an average of 173 cows per holding.
  • Scotland has approximately 9 per cent of the UK dairy herd. 
  • The UK has the third largest dairy herd in the EU, after France and Germany, and the largest average herd size.

More than 50 per cent of dairy cows are bred pure to produce replacement heifers.  The rest are cross-bred with a variety of beef breeds to produce calves – some of which become breeding cattle in the beef herd.  Dairy farms tend to be concentrated in the south west of the country where grass growth is conducive to high yields.

Pigs

  • Scotland had over 318,000 pigs in 2015.
  • 30,000 of these make up the breeding herd.
  • 58,000 tonnes of pig meat were produced worth £88 million.
  • Scotland has almost 10 per cent of the UK pig herd. 
  • Over 500 holdings have breeding pigs. 
  • A third of these holdings are in the North East of Scotland.

The pig industry in Scotland is fairly compact and concentrated.  Animals are produced to high welfare standards.  Almost all Scottish production is quality assured through Quality Meat Scotland.

Poultry

  • In 2015, there were approximately 13 million poultry in Scotland.
  • 5.6 million were egg-producing hens and around 7 million chickens were reared for meat production.
  • The tonnage of chicken produced in Scotland is valued at £59 million.
  • Scotland’s egg production is at a high with a value of over £88 million.
  • UK egg production is worth around £550 million annually.

The egg and poultry meat sectors are also highly integrated and are committed to high levels of farm assurance such as the Red Lion Scheme relating to eggs.

Cereals

  • In 2015, some 480,000 hectares of cereals and oilseeds were grown in Scotland.
  • 308,000 hectares of barley were grown and 110,000 hectares of wheat.  
  • There were 26,000 hectares of oats and 36,000 hectares of oilseed rape.
  • 1.9 million tonnes of barley were produced and one million tonnes of wheat were produced in 2015.   
  • More than 12 per cent of the UK cereals area was grown in Scotland. 
  • The UK is the third largest cereal producer in the EU, after France and Germany.

The main cereal crop in Scotland is barley and 28 per cent of the UK’s barley area is in Scotland.  Around 35 per cent of Scottish barley goes into malting primarily for Scotland’s whisky industry, and some 55 per cent goes for animal feed.  There are two types of barley: winter barley is sown in the autumn and spring barley is sown in March or April.  80 per cent of the Scottish crop is spring barley.  Milling wheats grown in Scotland are mainly used for biscuit making.  Wheat is also used in distilling and for animal feed.

Cereal farms are concentrated in the east of the country where the best quality land tends to be found.  On average, these farms have more than half their land in cereals.  Many of these farms have put increased emphasis on the matching of inputs to crop requirements and 85 per cent of the crop is marketed through Scottish Quality Cereals as Scotland's quality assurance scheme.

Potatoes

  • Most of the seed potatoes for the UK potato industry are grown in Scotland.
  • In 2015, just under 26,000 hectares of potatoes were grown in Scotland.
  • Scottish potato output was over 1.03 million tonnes in 2015, valued at £176 million.
  • Potatoes were grown on 2,600 holdings in Scotland.
  • 25 per cent of the holdings accounted for 77 per cent of the production area.

Apart from cereals, potatoes and oilseed rape are the main crops produced in Scotland.  As well as seed potatoes for export markets, Scottish farmers grow 'ware' potatoes for human consumption.

Oilseed Rape

  • Scotland's farmers produced over 148,000 tonnes of oilseed rape in 2015.
  • Oilseed rape goes towards producing oil for cooking, with the residues after crushing used in animal feed, and also for producing biofuels.

Fruit and Vegetables

  • There are 20,000 hectares of vegetables and soft fruit grown in Scotland.
  • Scottish producers produce more than 2,900 tonnes of raspberries and 25,000 tonnes of strawberries in 2015. 
  • A total of 231,000 tonnes of carrots, 64,000 tonnes of turnips, 34,000 tonnes of peas and 14,000 tonnes of Brussels sprouts were also grown.

Soft fruit production tends to be concentrated in fertile areas, for example Tayside and Angus, and benefit from long summer days.  Field vegetables, such as carrots, are grown on the very best land.  Other vegetables such as peas, beans and turnips are also grown for animal feed and for human consumption.  Some farmers also grow other vegetables such as cabbages, leeks, broccoli, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts.  A small number of farmers also grow bulbs and flowers.

The following table provides the anticipated snapshot of Scottish agriculture in 2016


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