Geese control methods to protect grazing land in Scotland are “no longer fit for purpose”, according to NFU Scotland.
The union has written to the Scottish government urging it to rethink its approach to goose conservation in Scotland’s islands and coastal areas.
Scottish farmers are blaming geese for damaging grass and crops and populations have recovered “beyond the point that the farmland on which they depend for grazing can support them”, NFUS said.
“Geese in their thousands are devastating grassland in our most fragile farming areas, threatening farm businesses and livestock numbers as the land becomes ungrazeable.”
Nigel Miller, NFUS
Farmers, crofters and land managers, who have been key in helping goose numbers recover, were now suffering management losses, the union added.
Cuts to goose management budgets have been accompanied by an exponential growth in the numbers of some species as well as rocketing farm input costs, especially fertiliser, livestock feed and energy.
New schemes were needed to identify the level of sustainable goose populations, which the land could actually support, the union said.
NFUS urged the Scottish government to consider new approaches to goose management as a “matter of urgency” and not leave Scotland’s farmers and crofters to “foot the bill for public conservation commitments”.
NFUS president Nigel Miller said: “Geese in their thousands are devastating grassland in our most fragile farming areas, threatening farm businesses and livestock numbers as the land becomes ungrazeable.
“Previously, local goose management schemes met the costs of impaired production, as well as ensuring that conservation objectives and international obligations, such as the EU Birds Directive were met.
“Funding to these schemes has been cut, however, and now that the bird populations are high and farm input costs, in particular energy and fertiliser, have rocketed, the schemes do not make up sufficiently for farm business losses incurred.”