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Four-point strategy to reboot Scottish livestock numbers

Scotland’s meat wholesalers have developed a four-point strategy, designed to reboot the country’s falling livestock numbers, along with a plea for Government action to be taken immediately rather than waiting for post-Brexit pilot trials to be run in 2022 or 2023.

“The latest figures show calf registrations down by another 2% and, if we wait until Brexit and transition is finished, we’ll have lost another 15% of our national livestock output,” said Andy McGowan, SAMW President.

“Building up the Highland each year is always a reminder of the quality of our livestock and the tremendous stockmanship skills available across Scotland. Unfortunately, what we command in quality we sadly lack in quantity, and we can’t go on merely celebrating the dying embers of our industry as each year passes.”

SAMW’s call for action includes the following strategy demands:

  • Uplift in funding for beef calf producers
  • Revamp the upland sheep support scheme
  • Extend Producer Organisations to all livestock sectors
  • Simplify the Beef Efficiency Scheme

“We know the Scottish Government has set out its ambitions for the future of the rural economy in its Stability and Simplicity document, a plan which includes many sound proposals and objectives,” said Mr McGowan. “At the same time, however, the document lacks the urgency which our declining livestock numbers demand, if we’re to turn this industry around before it’s too late.

“A Government strategy of keeping things broadly the same until Brexit is settled and then running pilot schemes in 2022/23 to see what might work in the longer term is no good to us. We need these pilots to start now and for the demands of our four-point strategy to be addressed immediately.”

Demand one – Uplift in funding for beef calf producers
SAMW says: “The breeding sector is the cornerstone of the beef herd yet only receives £40m in public sector support via the suckler beef scheme, less than 1% of the total budget. This is inadequate and should be increased to £100m from 2019 onwards to provide a support payment of £250 for every beef calf produced.”

Demand two – Revamp the upland sheep support scheme
SAMW says: “With a current budget of around £8m, the impact of these support payments on an already fragile sector is modest. In addition, this same sector is about to be hit very hard as a consequence of the reduced value of LFASS payments in 2019 and 2020.”

Demand three – Extend Producer Organisations to all livestock sectors
SAMW says: “Producer Organisations have been instrumental in integrating and modernising the Scottish supply chains for fruit and vegetables. Extending this legislation to include the livestock sectors would be a cheap and highly effective way of driving supply chain efficiency for Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork.”

Demand four – Simplify the Beef Efficiency Scheme
SAMW says: “While the Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES) injects welcome support into the breeding sector, participation in BES is dropping to a new low as many potential participants see it as overly prescriptive and bureaucratic. It needs to be simplified and focused on rewarding the key behaviours that deliver climate change gains and increase the overall efficiency and productivity of farming enterprises.”