About 2,000 Scottish farmers and crofters have signed up to a new beef scheme for their share of up to £45m to support the sector.
A last-minute surge in applications has seen 179,000 beef cows from 2,000 farmers – almost 50% of Scotland’s iconic beef herd – included in the inaugural five-year Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES).
The scheme aims to help beef producers improve the efficiency, sustainability and quality of the Scottish beef herd to help increase profitability and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
The long-term plan is to improve the genetics of the national beef herd in Scotland.
In return for monitoring key information about cattle, such as genetic data, beef producers will be paid about £32/calf for the first three years. To be eligible, a beef cow must have a calf registered on the ScotEID database in 2015.
NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie said the late flurry of applications for the scheme was an important step towards maintaining the “premier-league position of Scotch beef”.
The union will now lobby Scottish government for a second round of applications to encourage more beef producers to sign up to the scheme.
“We want to see more herds enrolled, the scope to bring in new farmers to the sector and the need for those who are expanding to be properly supported,” said Mr Bowie.
“To make the scheme more accessible to as many producers as possible, changes to the tagging options for those selling weaned calves should also be considered.
“There remains a job to do for all parties committed to making BES a success, including the Scottish government, in explaining all aspects of the scheme to existing and potential applicants. That said, this is a positive start.”
Borders farmer and former NFUS president Nigel Miller has urged as many beef producers as possible to sign up to the scheme to avoid the beef sector falling behind competitors in the Republic of Ireland, where a similar €40m (£33m) scheme was started in 2014 with resounding success.