Number of dairy herds in Scotland falls to 918

The dairy and potato sectors performed well in the year.

The number of dairy herds in Scotland has fallen to just over 900.

The latest figures from the Scottish Dairy Cattle Association (SDCA) reveal 918 dairy herds were in operation on January 1 – down 39 on the same point last year.

NFU Scotland vice-president and Stranraer dairy farmer Gary Mitchell described the news as “disappointing” and said the continuing decline in herd numbers led to worries about a critical mass of producers being retained.

He said: “In previous dairy downturns, many producers have been able to ride out the storm but the dairy crisis of 2015-16 has been particularly damaging and left many dairy farmers with little appetite for continuing to milk cows. Constantly dealing with volatility, difficulties in sourcing labour and the lack of a successor coming on who is prepared to milk cows will all have been factors in the decline in dairy farms.”

The number of herds in Aberdeenshire decreased to 29, from 31, while in Angus herd numbers reduced by two to seven.

In Argyllshire, herd numbers decreased from 12 to 10, and in Fife they reduced by three to 20. Herd numbers in Orkney reduced by three to 17 and new herds were established in Stirlingshire and the Isle of Lewis.

Despite the decrease in herd numbers, the SDCA has revealed an increase in the average herd size to 195 and the highest total number of milking cows in the country since 1997 at 178,928. The number of herds officially milk recording increased by 110 in the year to 657.

SDCA secretary Janette Mathie said: “During 2018 we know of more herds intending to cease milk production this year but we also know of entirely new herds starting up, as there were during 2017, but the overall trend of less herds and more cows will continue.”

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