The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)

Focus on upland livestock systems

- BY DAVY MCCRACKEN Professor Davy McCracken is head of SRUC’s Hill and Mountain Research Centre at Kirkton and Aucthertyr­e Farms

I have highlighte­d in previous articles some of the research and demonstrat­ion occurring on our Kirkton and Auchteryre farms and the fact we are involved in a wide range of European projects.

I am pleased to say my team is also going to be working closely with crofters and hill farmers across Scotland and England over the next few years.

This new project, called Resilience in Upland Livestock Systems, is led by social scientists at Edinburgh University and involves agricultur­al and environmen­tal specialist­s in my team working in close collaborat­ion with SRUC economists in Edinburgh and veterinary practition­ers from RAFT Solutions Ltd in north Yorkshire.

The project is looking at the economic, social and environmen­tal resilience of upland sheep and beef systems.

We intend to consider the ability of these systems to respond to climate change and other shocks and provide greater understand­ing of how best these systems could adapt to the challenges facing them.

In particular we are keen to assess the key constraint­s, and opportunit­ies, in upland livestock production and how technologi­cal interventi­ons and policy changes could enhance overall system resilience.

We will be waiting until lambing, calving and the current round of farm subsidy applicatio­ns are out of the way before approachin­g individual farmers and crofters about involvemen­t in the project. But we have selected four areas that we consider represent a gradient of climatic and livestock production challenges. These are – the Isle of Skye, Orkney Islands, Scottish Borders, and the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.

Uplands – or land of upland character under similar climatic, soil and land capability constraint­s – make up 70% of Scotland, 40% of Wales, 25% of Northern Ireland and 15% of England.

In addition, upland livestock farming has a substantia­l role to play in not only delivering food production, but also in addressing many of the wider issues, including flood prevention, that wider society requires.

Neverthele­ss, farming in the uplands is extremely challengin­g, financiall­y fragile, and just as deserving of considerat­ion as to what ‘needs to be done’ to help maintain continued delivery of those services to society.

Innovative, technologi­cal approaches are just as, if not more so, relevant in the uplands to help land managers tackle these challenges in sustainabl­e, socially acceptable ways.

Historical­ly upland livestock farming has been disproport­ionately reliant on public subsidy. The Brexit process makes a focus on the resilience of upland livestock farming timely given the inevitable squeeze on public funding that will occur following the UK’s exit from Europe.

“Ability of these systems to respond to climate change”

 ??  ?? STUDY: The project will look at the economic, social and environmen­tal resilience
STUDY: The project will look at the economic, social and environmen­tal resilience

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