Thousands of Scottish beef producers will receive a share of £38m of funding to help ease cashflow worries after a difficult winter.
NFU Scotland (NFUS) asked the Scottish government to bring forward payments made under the Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme (SSBSS) after a long, wet winter and cold, damp spring.
A similar request has been made on behalf of hill sheep farmers under the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme.
Fergus Ewing, rural economy secretary, said in the next few weeks SSBSS funds will be awarded to 6,485 farm businesses producing beef calves from suckler cows.
“We have worked hard to get these vital payments out earlier than expected in order to aid our suckler herds, which form the backbone of quality beef production in Scotland and provide environmental benefits in fragile areas,” said Mr Ewing.
Favourable exchange rates have helped to boost the value of payments being made under the beef calf scheme to £99.49 for each mainland animal and £144.22 a head for island stock.
However, the number of animals claimed under the scheme has declined from 395,000 in 2015 to 387,000 in 2017.
NFUS welcome early payments
NFUS livestock committee chairman Charlie Adam, who keeps beef cows in Aberdeenshire, said the early payments are a welcome development and the value of such support cannot be underestimated.
“The beef calf scheme helps ensure that producers around the country are encouraged to keep producing beef calves to underpin the production of quality Scotch beef,” he said.
“Given the weather endured in the past six months or more, that has been very challenging, with bank accounts being drained to keep on top of rising feeding and bedding bills.
“If we are to maintain our beef production in the post-Brexit era, then returns for suckled calf producers must be maintained or increased.”