THE six-month dairy herd statistics for Scotland to the end of June released by the Scottish Dairy Cattle association (SDCA) not surprisingly show a reduction in the number of milking herds, but also an increase in total cow numbers.

In Scotland there are now only 924 dairy herds - the lowest number since records began in 1903, and a reduction of 33 since January this year. Despite the decline in the number of milking herds, dairy cow numbers have increased by 2,622 to 175,928 in the last six months to make it the highest total since 1997, and the average herd size at 191 is also the highest in history.

Dairy herds that are officially milk recorded have increased by 102 to 649, partly due to EU financial incentives, but also due to milk buyers and farmers realising the financial benefits of improving milk quality and lowering somatic cell counts, as well as many other high-tech benefits such as pregnancy checking and disease testing.

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Janette Mathie, SDCA secretary commented: "The next six months will be interesting as we know of a number of herds coming out of milk production, but we also know of completely new herds starting up before the end of the year. I think the trend of less herds and more cows per herd will continue."

Applicants invited for study tour to South Africa

THE Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) is offering an all expenses 12-day trip to South Africa as part of its ongoing commitment to young people in agriculture, and hosted by the Royal Agricultural Society of The Commonwealth (RASC) Next generation programme.

The study tour, which leaves the UK on the 29 August, is open to anyone under 40, who is a member of RHASS or nominated by a RHASS member. The deadline for applications is 24 July.

This is a unique opportunity to visit an agriculturally rich region of the world, and learn about a wide range of farming systems.

The itinerary includes visits to a fruit farm, grain farm, vegetable farm, a tour of the Biedouw Boer Goat Stud, visits to an Angus cattle farm and Mutton Merino Sheep Farm, a tour of a tea factory, visit to a game resort and even travel by mule cart to see how donkeys are used for ploughing and harvesting.

Anyone interested should contact 0131 335 6235 or email aprilm@rhass.org.uk to request an application form. All applicants must have a valid passport. The successful applicant will be notified by the end of July.