While the number of dairy farms in Scotland fell to the lowest level ever over the course of 2015, the number of milking cows showed the opposite trend, rising to a record level during the same period.
Figures produced by the Scottish Dairy Cattle Association (SDCA) showed that despite seven new dairy farms being set up, the exit of 34 from the business saw the net number of dairy farms fall by 27 to 974, the lowest level ever.
The SDCA said that, while this result was not unexpected due to disastrous farm gate prices, the fact that the total dairy cow population increased by 2,552 to 175,835 – giving a record average herd size of 180 milking cows – had been less expected.
The south-west of Scotland recorded the greatest increase in cow numbers with Kirkcudbrightshire increasing by 2,790 cows with the same number of herds and Wigtownshire increasing by 2,078 cows with one less herd.
Other counties that had increased numbers of cows were Angus, Ayrshire, Berwickshire, Lanarkshire, Roxburghshire and Stirlingshire.
“The impact of the poor milk price has not yet had a full effect as many of the increased cow numbers are the result of long-term planning when prices were at a realistic level,” said SDCA secretary Janette Mathie.
“Last autumn was good which meant cows were out at grass longer and there is plenty of silage in the pits. Dairy farmers have cut costs where they can but they do face a tough financial future.”