Union Calls for Simple Changes to Make Beef Efficiency Scheme Fit for Purpose

NFU Scotland has provided eight simple recommendations to Scottish Government on how its ground-breaking Beef Efficiency Scheme could be improved to drive forward the beef sector in Scotland.

Around half the eligible cows in Scotland’s beef herd have been enrolled into the Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES) in year one which NFUS believes is a solid start to driving forward the performance of Scotland’s beef sector.

However, as the cornerstone of Scottish agriculture, the Union is keen to see the role of BES extended to underpin the nation’s position amongst the elite of beef producing countries.

The changes the Union believes should be made to the scheme in year two include:

  • Adjustment to allow for a payment on animals in expanding herds and new herds.
  • Extend the payment from 3 years to 5 years
  • Tissue testing tags to be on farm by the end of August
  • Clear and proportionate penalties
  • Greater clarity on carbon audit
  • Further application round in 2017
  • Greater encouragement to smaller herds
  • Maximise information on BES database to drive improvements in the national herd

Writing to Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said: “Given the huge importance of our beef sector to Scotland, BES is off to an encouraging start.  Further fine tuning would increase its reach and its relevance as we seek to drive our beef industry forward.

“The future of the beef sector lies with expanding and new herds and that merits recognition within BES.  Similarly, farmers are required to give a five-year commitment to BES but, as things stand, are only being paid for the first three years of the scheme.  To encourage as great a take up as possible, a payment should be made for each of the five years of the scheme.  

“To assist the smooth running of BES, particularly in our more extensive areas where calves are traditionally sold in the autumn, the delivery of tissue tags for genomic testing need to be available in August to better fit with the normal farming year.

“On communications, there is a need to better explain any penalties that may be incurred if farmers accidentally breach BES rules and clearer messages on the carbon audit element are also needed so that farmers are aware of the annual input/output data needed by BES.

“Importantly, we need to look at encouraging a further uplift in membership.  Critical mass is vital if we are to maintain the vibrancy and resilience of our beef industry and that merits a further application round in 2017.

“Whilst we may have half of the eligible beef cows in the scheme, we do not have half the beef farmers. Smaller beef herds play a vital role in vulnerable or more extensive areas but they perceive the obligations of the scheme to be greater than the financial reward being offered.  It is important that the Scottish Government looks at how smaller keepers could be attracted into the scheme and the advantages that the scheme has to offer their cattle production clearly communicated.

“Longer term, there is an opportunity to ensure the scheme drives our Scotch brand and improves meat quality.  In order to achieve this, the BES database must incorporate the information held by Food Standard Scotland and Scottish abattoirs in order to allow us the ability to explore how we get more cattle achieving higher eating quality, fewer health issues and better meat yield.”  


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 156/16

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