Dairy farms in Scotland perform especially well, but cattle and sheep production and general cropping also maintain a high ranking, according to a study.

But the Scottish cereal sector faces limitations.

The reserach was carried out for DEFRA by the Scottish Agricultural College to assess efficiencies across Britain over 20 years.

Researchers ranked farms and farm types according to the maximum outputs they could achieve from a given level of inputs.

Statistical techniques were employed to rule out the effects of random events like weather or disease.

Team leader Andrew Barnes said the results were revealing.

All of Scotland’s agricultural sectors perform well within themselves and against each other, but it is when they are compared with others that differences emerge.

Scottish livestock farms rank highly, especially in dairying, with a small dip for cattle and sheep in less-favoured areas.

Cereal producers ranked well in Scottish terms, said Dr Barnes. But they still ranked behind both England & Wales and N Ireland.

“The reasons are unclear, but there could be some underlying structural or biophysical reason giving the others an advantage.”

Also revealed by the study was how few of the farms altered their position within broad efficiency bands.

On average, 60% of them stayed within their set level. Only 20% improved significantly, while another 20% fell into a lower group.

Dr Barnes said this could be attributed to the resilience of the industry to challenges such as CAP reform or major disease outbreaks.

“On the other hand it may also be alerting us to other factors that might be holding businesses back and which we must address.”

The full report can be found here.