The Scottish government has been presented with a 23-point blueprint for the regeneration of Scotland’s £825m beef industry, with a recommendation that measures be introduced as soon as January 2015.

The action plan was devised by the Beef 2020 group, which was established by rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead in December 2013 to drive growth in a sector that makes up more than a quarter of Scotland’s agricultural output.

The long-term aim is for market-led growth in Scottish beef production and sales increasing from 166,000t in 2013 to 185,000t by 2020. That requires a 5% growth in beef cow numbers within five years and 10% within 10 years.

Key measures identified in the report include developing a system of deadweight payment to more accurately reward the yield and value of carcasses, a full bovine EID system and maximising animal health by reducing and controlling liver fluke and Johne’s disease.

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However the report also states that there needs to be more collaboration between the supply chain and the processing sector. It recommends that industry representative bodies should establish a round table that meets every quarter to discuss the developing market situation and agree common actions to communicate messages to producers on product specifications and market requirements.

The measures will be financed by the extra £45m of beef industry improvement funding which was announced in June as part of the next Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) although the detail still needs to be ratified by Europe.

Beef 2020 report

Mr Lochhead described the report as the most ambitious action plan ever devised for the Scottish beef industry and said it would enable producers to stay ahead of the game.

“It will be an unprecedented investment to help achieve the most efficient beef sector,” he added.

The group, chaired by Quality Meat Scotland chairman Jim McLaren, acknowledged Scottish beef is among the most expensive in the world to produce. It also established, as a guiding principle, the need to take serious steps to minimise the carbon footprint of every kilo of meat produced.

Key recommendations include

  • Developing a system of deadweight payment which more accurately rewards the yield and value of the carcass.
  • Developing an integrated and accessible database containing livestock traceability data and farm assurance status.
  • Adopting a full bovine EID system at the earliest possible opportunity.
  • Encouraging producers through financial incentives, to collect data to populate and develop a national integrated and accessible livestock breeding database incorporating genetic and productivity information.
  • Developing a rewards programme for meeting objectives of herd-welfare plans.
  • Devising a model agreement to facilitate share farming of livestock on arable holdings.
  • Develop web-based benchmarking tools for the beef industry.