23 steps to revitalise the Scottish beef sector

Industry leaders have launched a step-by-step plan to revitalise the Scottish beef sector .

The Beef 2020 plan aims to create “a confident market-driven grass-based cattle industry, using leading edge technologies, capable of delivering profitably to the home and world market high-provenance, quality beef from sustainable production systems.”

Headline goals include boosting Scottish beef production from 166,000t in 2013 to 185,000t in 2020 and expanding cow numbers by 10% in 10 years.

The 23 stages in the action plan are:

  1. Set up a quarterly round table meeting for representatives across the supply chain. This group would discuss the market situation and communicate changes to specification and customer requirements to farmers.
  2. The Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) should provide dedicated support for the development of producer organisations. These groups give farmers strength in numbers, allowing them to negotiate marketing strategies on behalf of members.
  3. Make sure producers and processors work together when trying to exploit new market opportunities. This means farmers can up production with less fear of prices falling through oversupply.
  4. Construct a deadweight payment system that more accurately rewards the carcass yield and value. There are options beyond the Europ grid to look at qualities such as marbling and maturity.
  5. The Scottish government must work to give the beef sector maximum access to international markets, including the fast developing economies.
  6. Quality Meat Scotland, Scotland Food and Drink and other agencies should pool resources to increase their marketing presence in those new markets.
  7. Sustainability credentials need to be added to the Protected Geographical Indication and quality assurance schemes, as these are increasingly demanded by restaurants and retailers.
  8. Build an integrated database with information from all stages of the animal’s life, including breed, physical performance and grade. The individual data would be open to all those who owned the animal at any point, from calf rearer to processor.
  9. Encourage farmers with financial incentives to send in data for a national livestock breeding database the whole supply chain could use.
  10. Introduce a full bovine electronic identification system as soon as possible. It would speed up the collection and sharing of information.
  11. Boost financial support for those attending and leading knowledge transfer groups. These groups can be led by “champion farmers” so others could learn from top-performing businesses.
  12. Carry out a review of agricultural training schemes in Scotland to make sure young people learn the right skills to help the industry develop.
  13. The Scottish government must continue to fund major research into ruminant production, on subjects like health, welfare and sustainable intensification.
  14. Create an industry-wide plan to reduce and manage Johne’s disease. In 2012, Adas estimated the disease could cost a 100-cow suckler herd more than £4,000/year.
  15. Create an industry-wide plan to reduce and manage liver fluke. An Adas report from 2013 showed fluke could extended finishing periods by up to 27 days to achieve the same weight as non-affected cattle.
  16. Encourage farmers to follow herd health plans by using short-term financial support.
  17. Rural development funds should be used to help young or old new entrants buy livestock and a medium-term loan facility at preferential rates should be introduced to help them meet their working capital requirements.
  18. The industry group meeting quarterly should draw up a model agreement for share farming. Under the new CAP, more grassland could be needed on some arable farms, opening up changes for new or established livestock producers.
  19. Build internet-based benchmarking tools for beef farmers, helping them easily compare their own farm’s technical and financial performance with others.
  20. Widen access to data-gathering tools. For example, mobile weighing crates could be brought to farms to help measure performance.
  21. Push the European Union to reclassify beef by products such as bovine intestines. This would reduce waste and increase value from the fifth quarter of the carcass.
  22. Provide financial support for investment in technology to cut down waste in the processing sector, from energy to by products.
  23. Create an online portal for research, advisory and consultancy work that could be used by businesses to become more efficient.

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