Fewer dairy farmers but herd sizes at record high

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The number of milk producers in Scotland has continued to fall with just 1,011 still in the business at the beginning of January this year, a loss of 16 producers over the past 12 months and a tenfold reduction from only 50 years ago.

However, while the industry is falling into fewer and fewer hands, actual cow numbers rose, by 792 to 163,744, the highest total since 2008.

Average herd size in Scotland now stands at a new record level of 162 cows, an increase of three from the previous year.

Further figures from the Scottish Dairy Cattle Association (SDCA) show that, while most counties had only marginal changes up or down in cow numbers, Wigtownshire increased its total by 1,022 cows with three fewer herds and Ayrshire was up by 740 cows. In contrast Fife saw numbers reduced by 323 cows.

In the major dairying counties, Kirkcudbrightshire led the way with an average herd size of 266 and, in the not so highly populated dairying counties, Banffshire was 405, Peeblesshire 351 and Morayshire 349.

Commenting on the results, Janette Mathie, the secretary of the SDCA, said, “It is a surprise to many that total cow numbers are up, especially when many herds have been reducing numbers to preserve the very scarce winter fodder reserves due to the disastrous wet summer and cows being put on winter rations earlier than ever before.

“The majority of herds have done silage calculations and have taken steps to alter rations or obtain extra feed to ensure they can last until grass appears in the spring but I would appeal to others to take steps now otherwise they face severe difficulties by February, March time and perhaps animal welfare problems.”