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Scottish cattle numbers fall to lowest since 1950


By Kayleigh Jones


New Scottish Government figures reveal a decrease in cattle numbers

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Cattle numbers in Scotland have fallen to their lowest since 1950, according to figures released by the Scottish Government.


Results from their December Agricultural Survey found that cattle numbers have fallen by 1.4 per cent, to 1.71 million. Beef cattle have decreased by 1.2 per cent and the number of dairy cattle has also dropped, by 0.6 per cent.


These figures reverse the upward trend in cattle numbers, seen in the previous two years’ census.


Regulations and payments


NFU Scotland’s livestock committee chair, Charlie Adam, blames the fall on changes to regulations and payments.

Farm census findings

  • Sheep numbers increased by 1.7 per cent to 5.04 million
  • Pig numbers continue to rise by 11 per cent to 368,000
  • Seven per cent increase in the poultry section
  • 19 per cent rise in the number of broilers
  • Winter-sown crops up to 196,600 hectares

Figures from Scottish Government

He said: “The fact we are at a fifty year low for cattle numbers is very worrying.


"For beef producers, higher costs, tighter carcass specifications and a reduction on the maximum value a carcass can achieve will be having an effect.


“Also, changes to support systems to area-based payments will have seen large reductions for many of the cattle breeders and finishers in the ‘engine room’ where the bulk of our quality cattle are produced.


"There isn’t enough profit, if any, in beef production without support.


"At current levels of support, it will take a lot more than efficiency improvements to change the fortunes of beef production – it needs market prices to rise substantially!”

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