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NFUS Sees Bright Future for Bull Hire Scheme

16 January 2009

SCOTLAND, UK - National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) has urged MSPs to support retention of the Bull Hire Scheme, which is crucial to maintaining livestock production in Scotland’s crofting areas.

The Bull Hire Scheme was established more than a century ago to help improve the quality of crofting stock by providing crofters, who have small numbers of breeding cows, access to high quality, healthy bulls. Once the bulls’ services are no longer required they are returned to the Scheme, allowing crofters living in remote areas to avoid the difficulties of overwintering valuable bulls in unsuitable conditions.


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"NFU Scotland envisages a successor scheme which would continue to provide high quality bull hire"
NFU Scotland’s Crofting, Highlands and Islands Committee Chairwoman, Jo Durno

The scheme is currently funded through the Crofting Counties Agricultural Grants Scheme (CCAGS) but is due to close within months. Crofting communities are concerned that a modified, replacement scheme must be put in place as soon as possible and that one mooted alternative of artificial insemination is not suitable.

In a briefing to MSPs ahead of today’s debate on the future of the Scheme, NFUS has stressed the importance of the scheme and outlined a number of changes that could be made in a successor scheme, on which it is currently consulting with its crofting members and local finishers.

NFU Scotland’s Crofting, Highlands and Islands Committee Chairwoman, Jo Durno said:

“The fragile nature of farming in crofting areas and the fact that livestock numbers are falling dramatically is well documented. It is therefore important that a suitable successor scheme be put in place as soon as possible.

“The Scottish Government has proposed dispersing the current herd of Bull Hire Scheme bulls and making them available to crofters, with additional support available through the Land Managers’ Options (LMOs) element of the Scotland Rural Development Plan (SRDP). Even with LMO support, however, crofters would not be able to put together overwintering facilities. Any successor scheme must therefore continue to be funded by CCAGS.

“AI is not an alternative for many crofters because of the practicalities of bringing cows off the hill exactly when in season for insemination. In-bye land also has to be used at this time of year for growing winter fodder.

“The current bull hire scheme has been a success. Some people have judged it to be uneconomical and conflicting with state aid rules, but NFU Scotland believes that a modified scheme could be more economic and accord with EU State Aid rules.

“NFU Scotland envisages a successor scheme which would continue to provide high quality bull hire, but could be more flexible, working with local companies to share facilities and offer the option of overwintering, where possible, to help keep costs down.”

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