Census Figures Show Fragile Beef Recovery

NFU Scotland has welcomed the green shoots of recovery seen in the Scottish beef herd but points out that any sustained increase in the number of beef cows being kept will be dependent on sustained and reliable returns from the market place.

The June agricultural census, published today by the Scottish Government, has suggested that Scottish beef cow numbers have increased by 1.5 per cent – the first time an increase has been recorded in five years.   The downside for livestock is that the number of cows in the Scottish dairy herd continues to drop and sheep numbers have yet to show signs of stabilising.

The Scottish pig breeding herd and egg laying flock continue to recover while the number of broilers reared in Scotland has fallen year-on-year.

With many parts of the North East and Highlands toiling with harvest, it remains to be seen if ongoing difficulties bringing in crops will compound the five percent reduction seen in the arable area grown in Scotland this season.

NFU Scotland’s Policy Director Scott Walker said:

“With all sectors in Scotland needing to operate in a fair and stable marketplace, there is always a degree of caution when interpreting census results as one year’s figures can be quickly transformed by unforeseen circumstances or price volatility.

“That said, it is good news that for the first time in five years, beef cow numbers are on the up.  It is too early to view this as a full-blown recovery.   For any recovery to be sustained, the market place must continue to deliver a fair and sensible return if long-term confidence in beef production is to return permanently.   We also await with interest the more detailed census figures available later in the year to see if the upturn in beef animals being kept has been across all areas of Scotland or whether production continues to decline in some regions.

“While beef numbers have improved, the same cannot be said of dairy cow numbers and with the dairy supply chain continuing to deliver a poor milk price that sits well below the true cost of production, confidence amongst dairy producers entering a costly winter remains low.

“On the back of an exceptionally hard winter, higher stock losses and lower lambing rates will have contributed to the ongoing decline in Scottish sheep numbers.   However, it is clear some are planning to rebuild flocks to some degree with an increase in the number of gimmers being retained for breeding.”  

Notes to Editors


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006


Date Published:

News Article No.: 138/10

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