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Scottish dairy herd decline continues with 11 farmers quitting in 2021

Almost 200 dairy farmers have quit the industry in Scotland in the past 10 years.

The number of dairy herds in Scotland continues to decline with 11 farmers quitting the industry last year, however new herds started in the far north and south-west, according to new figures.

Data from the Scottish Dairy Cattle Association (SDCA) reveals there were 832 dairy herds in operation across Scotland on January 1 – this represents a net loss of 11 herds on January 1, 2021, and a loss of 195 herds in 10 years.

Although the number of herds continues to fall, the figures show an increase of 3,023 cows to a national herd of milking cows of 179,361, with the average herd size increasing by seven cows to 216.

The Kintyre and Lanarkshire regions lost three herds each in the year, while Fife, Ayrshire, Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Roxburghshire, Stirlingshire and Wigtownshire each lost one herd.

New herds established

Herd numbers remained stable in most other regions with 14 dairy herds reported in Aberdeenshire, seven in Angus, one in Inverness, three in Kinross, five in Moray, 16 in Orkney, four in Perthshire, one in Ross & Cromarty and two in Shetland.

A new herd was established in Caithness and Sutherland, bringing the total number of herds in the area to three, while herd numbers also increased by one to 151 in Dumfries.

“Although farm gate prices increased during the latter part of 2021, the pandemic continues to be challenging, especially due to labour shortages and the rising cost of living, affecting costs such as fertiliser, fuel and energy prices,” said SDCA secretary Janette Mathie.

“But there is still commitment within Scottish dairy farmers to produce high quality milk and dairy products and breed superior dairy cattle.”

She said the figures also reveal an increase in the number of herds somatic cell count monitoring and disease testing, while pregnancy diagnosis through milk samples continues to grow in popularity.

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