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Beef and sheep numbers change

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By Fiona Reid
Beef and sheep numbers change

THE average beef herd size in Dumfries and Galloway has fallen by two per cent in a year.

However, the average sheep flock locally grew in the same time by two per cent.

And farming leaders say Scotland’s beef herds overall are set to shrink further, while flock sizes could increase.

Herd size in the region this year is 174, compared to 178 last year; while flocks have grown from 934 to 948 sheep.

Meanwhile, the NFUS 2023 Intentions survey points to a four per cent fall in beef cows as farmers and crofters keep more ewes.

They found many farmers are reducing cow numbers alongside indications that some are replacing them with sheep.

The survey was set up to assess the scale of change that unprecedented input costs and flat-lining output prices are having on business plans across all sectors.

The analysis of responses indicates that, to improve resilience, livestock farmers and crofters are already reducing fertiliser usage; increasing the amount of home-grown feeds; incorporating nutrient management plans to improve soil fertility and increasingly out-wintering stock rather than housing them over the colder months.

In terms of making a difference, an increase in price at slaughter and retail would be the most helpful for beef and sheep farmers. Respondents are also supportive of an increased marketing drive around Scotch beef and lamb.

Other mechanisms highlighted as being helpful included: greater clarity from Scottish Government on how future support for beef and sheep producers will be delivered and what conditionality will be attached to payments; developing greater cooperation between producers, and improving access to technology to improve herd/ flock performance and resilience to continue to deliver on food.

Discussions with other farmers, vets and advisors were deemed the best way of gathering information on how to improve their business. On-farm events were noted as helpful and valuable to livestock farmers echoing the NFU Scotland Livestock Committee’s support for the new monitor farm programme.

Commenting, the union’s livestock committee chair Hugh Fraser said: “For far too long we have anecdotally discussed the decline in beef cow numbers in Scotland. These results highlight the scale and depleting confidence levels of beef-producing members.

“The results highlight how we are a proactive and innovative sector which is willing to adapt to provide high quality, sustainable red meat if given the support and fair returns from the supply chain.”

Annan and Eskdale, Front

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