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What We Produce

Cattle and Sheep Farms

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

  • 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 2016.
  • Total production of beef in 2015 was worth more than £675 million.
  • Beef cattle are kept on almost 9300 holdings.
  • 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


  • 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% 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.


  • Scotland had over 330,000 pigs in 2016. 31,000 of these make up the breeding herd.
  • 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.


  • In 2016, there were approximately 14 million poultry in Scotland of which 6.3 million comprise egg-producing hens and around 6.5 million chickens are reared for meat production.
  • The tonnage of chicked 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 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.


  • In 2016, 462,000 hectares of cereals and oilseeds were grown in Scotland.
  • 286,000 hectares of barley were grown and 110,000 hectares of wheat.  There were 31,000 hectares of oats and 30,000 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% 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.


  • Most of the seed potatoes for the UK potato industry are grown in Scotland
  • in 2016, just under 28,000 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  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.

Oilseed Rape

  • Scotland's farmers produced over 148,000 tonnes of oilseed rape in 2015
  • Oilseed rape goes towards producing oil for cooking but also for producing biofuels.

Fruit and Vegetables

  • There are 21,000 hectares of vegetables and soft fruit grown in Scotland, including crops grown under cover
  • 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 tonns of Brussels were grown

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

Other fruits, such as rhubarb, blueberries, blackcurrants 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.

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