And NFU Scotland was concerned a rise in dairy cow numbers was masking further changes ahead
Scottish dairy farm figures have continued to fall this year but milking cow numbers have increased.
There are now only 918 dairy herds in Scotland, 39 less than in 2017, falling from 5735 when records began in 1903.
But there were 5,622 more milking cows with the average herd size reaching 195.
NFU Scotland said the drop was disappointed and led to concerns about a critical mass of producers being retained, particularly in more remote areas.
NFUS vice president Gary Mitchell said the dairy crisis of 2015/16 had left many farmers with little appetite to continue milking cows.
“Constantly dealing with volatility, difficulties in sourcing labour and the lack of a successor coming on who is prepared to milk cows will all have been factors in the decline in dairy farms,” he said.
He warned the increase in dairy cow numbers may be masking further changes ahead.
“Before the steep price falls in 2015 and 2016, dairy semen usage was high and these will be the cows entering herds now.
“Since that downturn, anecdotal evidence suggests a significant uptake in beef semen in dairy herds and that is likely to be reflected in a sharp reduction in dairy youngstock numbers in the forthcoming census.”
The largest dairying county was Ayrshire with 35,698 cows closely followed by Dumfriesshire, Wigtownshire and Kirkcudbrightshire.
Janette Mathie, SDCA secretary, said: “During 2018 we know of more herds intending to cease milk production this year but we also know of entirely new herds starting, up as there were during 2017, but the overall trend of less herds and more cows will continue.”