Cattle Farmers Cautious but Confident

SCOTLAND - A survey of Scotland’s cattle farmers shows cautiously increasing confidence in the Scottish beef sector.
calendar icon 22 July 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

The investigation by red meat industry body, Quality Meat Scotland, garnered responses from more than 350 suckler herds throughout Scotland.

More than two thirds of the famers surveyed said they were as or more confident than this time last year, with store cattle buyers showing the highest levels of confidence.

The herd size of those who replied ranged from enterprises with between one and four animals to some with more than 200 head. The responses have provided a valuable insight into the future shape and scale of Scottish beef production.

Key indicators were:

  • 23 per cent of those responding indicated they were intending to increase suckler herd size, and 20 per cent said they were intending to decrease suckler herd numbers. Analysis of herd size suggests there will be three per cent fewer cows next year;
  • Improving grassland is the challenge at the top of most farmer’s "to do" list, a direct response to rising feed costs;
  • And many are indicating a switch towards spring calvings next year.

The survey also polled farmers on their main concerns for the industry. Input price inflation and animal health were the chief concerns, but issues such as the level of red meat imports and threats created by World Trade talks as well the challenges of working within environmental constraints and the lack skilled labour were also identified.

QMS Head of Economic Services Stuart Ashworth said : "This is valuable information that we can use to help us map out the likely shape and scale of the industry going forward and to be ready to offer the kind of support that is relevant and timely.

"It will probably come as no surprise that some producers are planning on decreasing herd size and this could see tighter supplies in the year ahead. That said, others are remaining upbeat and are planning on putting more cattle on.

"Many are looking closely at the make up of the herd and investigating ways of cutting costs, particularly for feed, through improving grassland or changing sire.

"Another interesting factor emerging is the increasing importance of selling to a known vendor, farmers simply don't want to take chances on buying in disease when times are tight."

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