Beef producers in Scotland are being urged to sign up for the country’s Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES) or risk getting left behind foreign competitors.
The five-year scheme hopes to improve the national herd by helping those with suckler cows become more efficient and profitable through better genetic selection and farm management practices.
The scheme is being delivered with Rural Development funding as part of a £45m aid package from the Scottish government, following calls from the beef industry for help. The deadline to apply is 15 June.
Farmers will receive £32 a calf annually for the first three years and will be paid on an area basis.
They will also have access to a free advice service.
In return producers will need to collect data about their animals, conduct genotyping each year, undertake a carbon audit of their farm and identify management improvements.
‘Scotland’s beef herd must not be left behind’
“If we don’t grasp this opportunity and we fail to develop BES to a more appropriate and relevant level, then Scotland will be left on the sidelines while other competitors [such as Ireland] adopt the new techniques and step up the genetic potential of their herds,” warned NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller.
“BES is a process which can open the door to identifying cattle which yield higher value, grow more efficiently, finish faster, and which – most importantly at the end of the day – can deliver a quality eating experience for Scotch beef.
“It won’t change Scottish herd performance tomorrow or next year, but if the Scottish industry can buy-in to this scheme and develop it for the whole industry, then this initiative can support a new generation of beef producers with a powerful genetic toolbox and grow Scotch beef’s elite status.”
Jim McLaren, Perthshire beef farmer and chairman of Quality Meat Scotland, said the scheme offered the country’s beef producers a “concerted step forward” with the potential to “deliver real benefits for the bottom lines of individual farm businesses and our national herd.”
He urged producers to recognise the benefits and not be put off applying by the uncertainty and confusion that had surrounded the scheme so far.
Eligibility and how to apply
Producers must be eligible for Basic Payment Scheme payments and be registered on the Rural Payments and Services system and as a cattle keeper with the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
They must also be a breeder of beef calves and be a member of a farm assurance scheme.
The full scheme guidance and information about how to apply can be found on the Rural Payments and Services system’s website.