Scots barley area slumps as beef turns a corner

The Scottish cereals area fell by just over 5% this year, while cattle numbers were up slightly on 2009, according to provisional June census results.

The total cereal area was down by 23,418ha to 425,365ha, largely due to a massive 42,463ha decrease in the amount of barley grown, which was partially offset by more wheat. The oilseed rape area was up by almost a quarter to 35,980ha.

The cattle herd was up 0.8% on last year to 1.83m, boosted by a 1.5% rise in the number of beef cattle – the first rise in beef numbers for five years. It was offset slightly by continued decline in dairy cattle.

Sheep numbers were also down, by 2.5% to 6.75m, largely on the back of the harsh winter. Numbers of breeding ewes and lambs both fell, while there were more sheep aged one year and over.

NFU Scotland welcomed the “green shoots of recovery” for the beef herd, but cautioned against reading too much into one year’s results.

“For any recovery to be sustained, the marketplace must continue to deliver a fair and sensible return if long-term confidence in beef production is to return permanently,” NFU Scotland’s policy director Scott Walker said.

“While beef numbers have improved, the same cannot be said of dairy cow numbers and, with the dairy supply chain continuing to deliver a poor milk price that sits well below the true cost of production, confidence among dairy producers entering a costly winter remains low.”