Scottish farmers with suckler cows might have been forgiven for wondering what had happened to the much publicised £45 million beef efficiency scheme, which was due to start in 2016.
However, calf breeders will receive a surprise from the Scottish Government in the New Year – in the form of a calving diary which will let them start recording details required for the scheme from the start of the calving season.
With the incentive of £32 a head, producers are being asked to keep records of birth weight, family lines and other details of each calf born on the farm – and then to feed them into a central data-base when this is up and running later in the year.
The scheme, the result of recommendations made by the Beef 2020 initiative, forms the main plank of the three-year Scottish rural development programme (SRDP) beef support package which was announced by rural affairs secretary, Richard Lochhead more than a year ago.
Lochhead said that the bulk of the funding would be aimed at getting beef farmers to collect genetic and herd management information to inform future breeding decisions. Around £5 million of the pot will be spent expanding the ScotEID database system to interface with other cattle data sources such as markets and abattoirs.
He said that more details of the scheme would be available when the scheme was properly launched, later in 2016.
Encouraging all producers to take part, Lochhead said that the details collected would be used to improve the efficiency, sustainability and quality of the nation’s beef herd – a move which he claimed would help improve farm profits and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Jim McLaren, chairman of Quality Meat Scotland who chaired the Beef 2020 group, said: “It is vital that we as producers maximise our returns from the things that are within our control, such as the quality of our stock and the speed at which we can efficiently grow our animals, rather than becoming too depressed about things which we have no control over such as the weather or the latest exchange rate.”
Charlie Adam, NFU Scotland’s livestock committee chairman, said the country had to work to maintain its world-leading reputation for beef production.
“This scheme has the potential to help all beef farmers make the best choice in selecting the stock which we breed from. By recording and collating this information across the industry we can ensure that the Scottish beef industry keeps moving forward,” he said.
He added that while the £32 a head inducement was an important motivator to get involved in the scheme, the main aim of the exercise was ensure that the quality of stock in Scotland continued to improve.
“Participation in the scheme has been made simple and we want to see lots of farmers take part as it is through large numbers participating that the benefits of scheme will come for all beef producers in Scotland,” he said.