Co-operation is the key to higher livestock returns

A growing appreciation within Scotland's livestock sector of the benefits of co-operative marketing has helped boost output at one of country's biggest stock groups, it has been claimed.

Farm Stock (Scotland) said its co-operative model maximises returns for livestock producers. Picture: John Devlin
Farm Stock (Scotland) said its co-operative model maximises returns for livestock producers. Picture: John Devlin

Farm Stock (Scotland) Ltd, the Borders-based, farmer-owned marketing group and one of Scotland’s largest livestock co-operatives, yesterday announced a record year for livestock throughput.

The co-op, which is now in its 21st year of operation, handled higher numbers of both cattle and sheep – with cattle throughput 6 per cent higher while the sheep output rose by 14 per cent to 162,000 animals over the same period. Total turnover for the group also jumped – by more than 22 per cent – to stand at £15.4 million for 2016-17.

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The group’s chairman, Ian Watson, claimed the increase reflected a growing appreciation amongst livestock producers of the benefits of co-operative marketing, with much of the increase in throughput coming from new members, with more than 1,000 farmers now on the books.

“As a co-op, we are not in business to make profit for shareholders – hence our very low commission rates – but first and foremost we aim to maximise returns to livestock producers,” he said.

Watson added that the co-operative’s staff worked hard to ensure members got the best achievable prices for stock on any given day – and working as a co-operative also helped to keep marketing costs to a minimum.

He said: “I am proud to say that this hard work has meant we achieved £2.30 per lamb more than SQQ price in 2016-17. That is a real boost to farmers’ profitability.”

But while Farm Stock’s roots lay in the Borders and southern Scotland, recent expansion had seen staff and farmer members recruited up into central Scotland and over the border in Cumbria and Northumberland.

Watson also highlighted the fact that the recent appointment of Blairgowrie-based Brian Webster, charged with rolling out the benefits of the co-operative to farmers in the north and north-east of Scotland, had also helped boost business.

“The appointment of Brian brings the number of field staff employed by the co-op up to ten, backed up by the admin team based at the new headquarters in Selkirk.

“Brian Webster is a highly experienced in the world of livestock procurement and I’m sure he will become a valuable asset to our co-op and to farmers across his new area.” Watson concluded.