Scots propose solution to stem livestock decline

Scottish meat bosses are hoping an innovative proposal could help prop up the declining breeding numbers of beef and sheep.

The Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) has proposed withdrawing the Scottish Beef Calf Scheme and replacing it with an area payment to encourage active livestock farming over as wide an area of Scotland as possible.

Alan Jess, SAMW president said: “We believe that the option we’ve presented to government has the potential to reverse the damaging downward trend in livestock breeding which has existed since CAP reform.

“In addition to our core proposal, we’ve also given government a variation to consider as an alternative solution. We believe both of these proposals ‘tick all the boxes’ without damaging other sectors in the process.”

He said the SAMW had engaged the help of a European financial and funding research agency to help identify new funding option and ensure it remained within EU regulations.

Jess added that the core approach would provide significant new payments to livestock breeders, targeting aid at 80% of the suckler herd, 90% of the breeding ewe flock.

“Obviously, beef finishers would have to accept a reduction in support. The benefit to such businesses, however, is that they would continue to enjoy a steady supply of high quality raw materials on which to base their finishing business.

Their alternative is to keep collecting an enhanced support payment now and have no raw materials to work with in the longer term.”

Between 2004 and 2007, the LFA suckler herd had fallen by 6%, while the LFA ewe flock had dopped 9%, he said.

The second option on the table is to retain the calf scheme with a reduced top-slicing of existing beef and sheep support being used to raise an additional £32m. Both proposals would see a total of £48m be provided for the beef and sheep sector although the second option would see that spread across both LFA and non-LFA areas.