What we pro­duce

Argyllshire Advertiser - - FEATURE -

Cat­tle and sheep farms

Some farms spe­cialise in ei­ther cat­tle or sheep pro­duc­tion, but many farms keep both. In Scot­land, cat­tle and sheep are usu­ally reared ex­ten­sively – they are mainly fed out­side and on grass and they are only housed in the worst weather or when they are lamb­ing or calv­ing. Many of these farms are in the LFA (Less Favoured Area) scheme and the com­bi­na­tion of beef and sheep, some­times mixed with a small area of cropped land, brings var­i­ous ben­e­fits in bi­o­log­i­cal and land­scape di­ver­sity.

Beef cat­tle

The beef in­dus­try is the sin­gle largest sec­tor of Scot­tish agri­cul­ture. Scotch beef is world renowned for its qual­ity. Scot­land had just over 436,000 breed­ing beef cows in 2016. To­tal pro­duc­tion of beef in 2015 was worth more than £675 mil­lion. Beef cat­tle are kept on al­most 9,300 hold­ings. Scot­land has al­most 30 per cent of the UK herd of breed­ing cat­tle and four per cent of the EU herd. The UK beef herd is the sec­ond largest in Eu­rope, af­ter France. Some farm­ers rear beef cat­tle from birth un­til they are ready for slaugh­ter. Farm­ers in the north-west of Scot­land, for ex­am­ple, tend to rear beef cat­tle un­til they are be­tween six and -12 months old and then sell them as ‘stores’ to farm­ers in low­land ar­eas for fat­ten­ing. Some low­land farm­ers only keep cat­tle for fat­ten­ing or fin­ish­ing and do not have any breed­ing an­i­mals. Beef is also pro­duced from the male calves and un­wanted fe­male calves from the dairy herd. The ma­jor­ity of beef pro­duc­tion op­er­ates through a qual­ity as­sur­ance scheme with beef sold un­der the Spe­cially Se­lected Scotch Beef brand


• There are around 2,600,000 ewes in Scot­land.

• Three mil­lion fin­ished lambs pro­duced meat worth £176 mil­lion in 2015.

• Breed­ing sheep were kept on around 12,700 hold­ings.

• The average flock size in Scot­land is just over 200 ewes.

• Scot­land has more than 20 per cent of the UK breed­ing flock. The UK has the largest sheep flock in the EU – over a quar­ter of the to­tal EU flock.

The in­dus­try is or­gan­ised into three tiers: hill, up­land and low­land. Hill flocks are in the main breed­ing flocks with the ma­jor­ity of ewe lambs re­tained as flock re­place­ments for older ewes, which are gen­er­ally sold on to farms on the slightly lower ground af­ter four lamb crops. Up­land flocks usu­ally pro­duce mule ewe lambs which are sought af­ter by low­land breed­ers to cross with meat breed ‘ter­mi­nal sires’. Low­land flocks tend to ben­e­fit from com­par­a­tively bet­ter cli­mate, im­proved soil type and bet­ter graz­ing which com­bine to pro­duce qual­ity prime lamb.

Dairy farms

• Scot­land had 176,000 dairy cows in 2015. 1.5 bil­lion litres of milk were pro­duced worth more than £352 mil­lion.

• 1,000 hold­ings had dairy cat­tle with an average of 173 cows per hold­ing.

• Scot­land has ap­prox­i­mately nine per cent of the UK dairy herd. The UK has the third largest dairy herd in the EU af­ter France and Ger­many, and the largest average herd size.

More than 50 per cent of dairy cows are bred purely to pro­duce re­place­ment heifers. The rest are cross-bred with a va­ri­ety of beef breeds to pro­duce calves, some of which be­come breed­ing cat­tle in the beef herd. Dairy farms tend to be con­cen­trated in the south-west of the coun­try where grass growth is con­ducive to high yields. More than 90 per cent of Scot­tish dairy farms are mem­bers of the Na­tional Dairy Farm As­sured Scheme (NDFAS) which sets strict stan­dards for farm prac­tices. As supplied by NFU Mu­tual Scot­land.

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