The Scottish Government’s own efficiency has been called into question over the handling of the new £45million Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES).
An estimated 180,000 beef cows from 2000 Scottish farmers have been enrolled in the new five-year scheme which aims to improve the efficiency and quality of the beef herd and help producers increase the genetic value of their stock.
But months after signing up for the scheme, farmers are still waiting to be supplied with special tags to meet the rules which call for ’tissue tagging’ of 20% of cattle.
And now NFU Scotland’s livestock chairman Charlie Adam says farmers’ confidence in the scheme is being affected and has called for the rules to be adjusted. The union has also urged the Scottish Government to update all scheme applicants on progress with BES and let them know when the necessary tags will arrive.
“If tag delays cannot be resolved in the immediate future, then the Scottish Government should recognise the problem and make the tissue tagging element voluntary for 2016. This will allow those who can take samples from the animals that they still own to do so,” said Mr Adam.
“Applicants to this important scheme, worth £45 million to the industry, have every right to know now, and in detail, what they are expected to do to fulfil their BES obligations and Scottish Government must get back on the front foot in delivering the scheme.”
Mr Adam added that it was frustrating for the farmers who have already housed and handled their cattle for the winter as many of those animals were by now located in overwintering accommodation that can be some distance from home farms.
Shadow Rural Economy secretary, Peter Chapman MSP claimed it was impossible for farmers to sell store cattle in the autumn sales until they were told which animals need tagged and were sent the tags to do the job.
He added: “This will create huge cash flow and logistic problems for farmers who normally sell calves at this time – this is the SNP letting farmers down yet again.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said work was under way to rectify the problem and a timetable was expected by the end of the week.
He added: “It is not necessary for farmers to hold off from selling their animals.
“We will ensure that the sampling regime accommodates those farmers who have sold their calves and there will be no penalties for those whoo have. It may mean that some farmers will have a higher rate of sampling next year.”