Official figures from the December agricultural census showing that cattle numbers in Scotland have fallen to a 50-year low underscore the current precarious economics of beef production, it has been claimed.
NFU Scotland livestock committee chairman Charlie Adam said that there simply wasn’t enough profit being generated in the sector.
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Calling the continued decline in numbers extremely worrying, he said: “Higher costs, tighter carcase specifications and a reduction on the maximum value a carcase 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.
“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.”
Union vice-president Martin Kennedy said that the slide in cattle numbers – by 1.4 per cent, to 1.71 million – was a huge concern for the entire red meat sector and highlighted the overwhelming requirement for continued targeted support for the sector.
He added that while the official survey had also shown that there had been an increase in sheep numbers – up by 1.7 per cent to 5.04 million – this was the result of a better lambing in comparison to 2015.