Scottish Beef Industry Faces Meltdown

UK - Scottish beef producers may not have suffered the price collapse that sheep producers experienced this autumn as a result of disrupted markets due to foot-and-mouth, but the industry is facing an uncertain future.
calendar icon 28 December 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
Most specialist suckler beef producers fail to make a profit from their cows and use the single farm payment to subsidise their loss-making operations.

Various studies suggest that beef prices need to rise by at least 50% to a minimum of £3.20p per kilo deadweight to allow suckler beef to become profitable at current costs of production. The reality is that that is unlikely to happen in the near future and even if it did, the soaring cost of land, labour, fertilisers and fuel would allow only the most efficient to break even.

Scotland is unique in Europe to have a large specialist suckler herd where beef calves are naturally reared by their beef cows. Elsewhere beef is a by-product of the dairy herd, and the calves are artificially reared to allow the cows to be milked.

The problem with Scotland's half-million or so beef cows is that they can only produce an eight-month-old weaned calf worth on average little more than £330. That leaves the average beef cow generating an annual income of little more than £300 to cover costs, compared to a typical dairy cow that now produces annual milk sales of around £2000.

Dairy cows also produce calves every year, although the bull calves are only worth about £30 apiece. They are either exported to mainland Europe where many are reared for veal, while some are reared in the UK to produce inferior beef carcasses.

Source: The Herald
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