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.

 

Number of people working in Agriculture

The total number of people working in agriculture dropped over the past year. The total number fell by 400 workers to 66,600 in June 2018.

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 the LFA (Less Favoured Area) and the combination of beef and sheep, sometimes mixed with a small area of cropped land, brings various benefits in terms of biological and landscape diversity.

Beef Cattle

  • Scotch beef is world renowned for its quality and welfare standards.
  • In 2018, there were 1.76 million cattle in Scotland, a two per cent drop on the previous year and the lowest count since 1957.
  • Total production of beef is worth more than £675 million.
  • Scotland has almost 30% 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 West of Scotland, for example, tend to rear beef cattle until they are between 6-12 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

  • In 2018 there were 6.59 million sheep in Scotland.
  • Lambs made up 48% of the total sheep flock in Scotland and in 2018 their numbers fell by 8% to 3.1 million. ‘The Beast from the East’ snow storm hit during lambing season and is likely to have contributed to the lower numbers.
  • The number of ewes used for breeding also hit a record low. Breeding ewes made up 39 per cent of the Scottish sheep flock and their numbers decreased by four per cent to 2.6 million in 2018. 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% 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 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 slightly lower ground after four lamb crops.

Upland flocks usually produce mule 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.  1.500 billion litres of milk were produced worth more than £352 million.
  • 1,000 holdings had dairy cattle with an average of 173 cows per holding.
  • Scotland has approximately 9% 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% 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.
More than 90% of Scottish dairy farms are members of the National Dairy Farm Assured Scheme (NDFAS) which sets strict standards for farm practices. 

Pigs

  • Scotland had over 317,000 pigs in 2018. Pig numbers in Scotland have been declining since a peak in 1973
  • 58,000 tonnes of pig meat was produced worth £88 million.
  • Scotland has almost 10% of the UK pig herd.
  • 526 holdings had 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 2018, there were approximately 14.5 million poultry birds in Scotland of which 6.8 million comprise egg-producing hens and around 6.5 million chickens are 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.
  • Despite an increase in the number of birds for meat production (four per cent over the past year) the number of egg-laying birds outnumbered them for the second consecutive year

The egg and poultry meat sectors are also highly integrated and are committed to farm assurance through the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC)’s Lion Code and Assured Chicken Production. BEIC members have invested heavily in promotion and provision on health issues to consumers.

A huge volume of work has been undertaken by the egg industry, through the Red Lion Scheme and others, to promote eggs as healthy, nutritious, value-for-money and versatile. 

Cereals

  • In 2018, 459,400 hectares of cereals and oilseeds were grown in Scotland.
  • 250,500 hectares of Spring barley were grown and 99,800 hectares of wheat.  There were 32,100 hectares of oats, 37,500 ha of Winter Barley and 32,700 hectares of oilseed rape.
  • The area of rye has increased over the past year. Rye, which can be used in fuel production or distilling, has increased 14-fold from the 400 hectares recorded in 2014 to 5,800 hectares in 2018.
  • More than 12% of the UK cereal 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% of the UK’s barley area is in Scotland. 35% of it goes into malting. 55% 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% 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% of the crop is marketed through Scottish Quality Cereals, Scotland's quality assurance scheme. 

Potatoes

  • Most of the seed potatoes for the UK potato industry are grown in Scotland
  • In 2018, just under 27,400 hectares of potatoes were grown in Scotland
  • The Scottish potato output was over 1.03 million tonnes in 2015 valued at £176 million
  • Potatoes were grown on 2600 holdings in Scotland
  • 25% of the holdings accounted for 77% of the potato acreage

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


Fruit and Vegetables

  • In 2018, 18,900 hectares of vegetables and 2,100 hectares of soft fruit was grown in Scotland
  • Scottish producers produce more than 2900 tonnes of raspberries and 25,000 tonnes of strawberries
  • A total of 231,000 tonnes of carrots; 64,000 tonnes of turnips; 34,000 tonnes of peas and 14,000 tonnes of Brussels were grown

Soft fruit production tends to be concentrated in fertile areas, for example Tayside and Angus.

Other fruits, such as rhubarb are also grown in certain areas.

Field vegetables such as carrots are grown on the very best land.

Other vegetables such as peas, beans and turnips are also grown, sometimes for animal feed and sometimes for human consumption.

Some farmers also grow other vegetables such as cabbages, leeks, broccoli, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts.

A small number of farmers also grown bulbs and flowers.

Other Livestock

In June 2018, Scottish farms also had:

  • 34,400 horses
  • 9,700 farmed deer
  • 1,300 donkeys 
  • 4,100 beehives
  • 1,900 camelids (Alpacas, llamas etc.)



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