PAYMENTS worth £38 million to Scottish beef producers will arrive in farmers' bank accounts in the coming weeks - earlier than previously proposed. The Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme (SSBSS) supports around 7,000 specialist beef producers breeding beef calves from suckler cows, and news of its early payment was welcomed by NFU Scotland.

Faced with a long, wet winter and cold, damp spring, NFUS had asked Scottish Government to consider bringing forward payments made under the SSBSS to help with cash flows. A similar request has been made on behalf of hill sheep farmers who benefit from payments under the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme (SUSSS).

Favourable exchange rates have helped to boost the value of payments being made under the SSBSS to £99.49 per animal for Mainland beef calves and £144.22 per animal for Island beef calves. However, the number of animals claimed under the scheme has declined from 395,000 in 2015 to 387,000 in 2017.

NFUS livestock committee chairman Charlie Adam said: "The beef calf scheme helps ensure that producers around the country are encouraged to keep producing beef calves to underpin the production of quality Scotch beef.

"Given the weather endured in the past six months or more, that has been very challenging with bank accounts being drained to keep on top of rising feeding and bedding bills.

"Having this money heading into bank accounts ahead of schedule is a very welcome development. Our hill sheep sector faces the same challenges and we will continue to urge the Scottish Government to bring forward the timetable for payments made under SUSSS."

Market round-up

C&D Auction Marts Ltd sold eight prime heifers in Dumfries yesterday to a top of 230p per kg and an average of 205p, while a couple of prime bullocks peaked at 202p and levelled at 199p.

In the rough ring 10 beef cows averaged 150p and 32 dairy cows levelled at 124.5p.

There were also 221 prime hoggs that sold to £137 per head and 278p per kg to average 239p (+2.8p on the week), while a prime lamb fetched £138 or 282p.

A smaller show of 185 cast sheep saw heavy ewes sell to £128.50 for Texels and average £87, while light/export-type ewes peaked at £91.50 for Cheviots and levelled at £63.

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 585 prime hoggs in Newton Stewart yesterday to a top of £142.50 and 292.7p to average 238.6p (+0.7p), while 20 prime lambs peaked at £148 and 302.2p to level at 292.6p (+9.3p).

There were also 113 heavy cast ewes forward that sold to £132 for Suffolks and averaged £95.95, while 152 light ewes peaked at £76.50 for Blackfaces and levelled at £53.46.