EXPERTS have published an action plan to tackle livestock declines and low profitability in the beef industry.

Beef cow numbers have fallen by 50,000 since the last reform of the European Union's (EU) Common Agricultural Policy was implemented in 2005, according to the report.

An industry group led by Quality Meat Scotland chairman Jim McLaren has put forward 23 recommendations for the industry.

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These include measures to improve animal health, reduce climate change impacts and grow cattle numbers.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead, who requested the report and praised its suggestions, said: "Beef production is the powerhouse of Scottish agriculture.

"I have already committed to providing an extra £45 million of Scottish Government funding to the next Scottish Rural Development Programme to drive forward efficiency measures in our beef sector and I am determined that this level of support will be deployed to maximum effect."