And yesterday NFU Scotland sent a number of suggestions to the Scottish Government which it hoped would not only improve the performance of the scheme but also attract more producers – especially those with smaller herds – to sign up.
Delivering the eight-point plan, the union said that the current sign-up figure reflected a “solid start” – but president Allan Bowie said that further fine-tuning would increase the scheme’s reach and relevance.
Stressing the need to get more of those with smaller herds involved, he said: “Smaller beef herds play a vital role in vulnerable and more extensive areas but they perceive the obligations of the scheme to be greater than the financial reward being offered.
“It is important that the government looks at how smaller keepers could be attracted into the scheme and the advantages that the scheme has to offer their cattle production clearly communicated.”
Bowie said that the important role which would be played by expanding and new herds in the future of the industry should be recognised and that the scheme should be made more flexible to cater for producers with increasing numbers.
The need to extend the payments – which only run for three years, despite the scheme running for five – was also highlighted as were some changes of timing, such as having tissue testing tags on farm by the end of August to fit in better with the normal management calendar.
Bowie also said that there should be greater clarification on any penalties faced by producers – and that they should be proportionate – and that more details on the carbon audit should be made available to producers.
“Importantly, we need to look at encouraging a further uplift in membership. Critical mass is vital if we are to maintain the vibrancy and resilience of our beef industry and that merits a further application round in 2017.”
He added: “Longer term, there is an opportunity to ensure the scheme drives our Scotch brand and improves meat quality.
“In order to achieve this, the BES database must incorporate the information held by Food Standard Scotland and Scottish abattoirs in order to allow us the ability to explore how we get more cattle achieving higher eating quality, fewer health issues and better meat yield.”