PAYMENTS under the 2017 Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) to farmers and crofters in Scotland have now started.

A total of 4,675 payments worth over £23.4m (£4.2m net of the national LFASS loans previously provided) have now been processed, with the first payments reaching bank accounts today. This means that 42 per cent of all eligible LFASS 2017 claims have now been paid, with more payments to follow in the coming weeks.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: "Given the pressures that farmers and crofters continue to face, due in part to the extreme weather conditions during the winter and summer periods, I'm glad to see these important payments starting two months earlier than last year.

"Earlier in the year we provided a loan option to farmers in advance of these payments, to help provide cash-flow and financial certainty. Farmers are the backbone of Scotland's rural economy and the Scottish Government is committed to supporting them wherever possible."

* Meanwhile, the National Sheep Association (NSA) has launched a biennial travel award. The new NSA Samuel Wharry Memorial Award for the Next Generation comes in the form of a £1,000 travel bursary to support a young person (under 35 years old) in a study trip to explore the application of science in sheep production.

Applications will be invited in autumn 2018 for the first time, in memory of Samuel Wharry of Carnlough, County Antrim, who was NSA Chairman when he died suddenly in May last year, aged just 56. Mr. Wharry was an advocate of science and technology, particularly relating to genetics, during his many years breeding Blackface sheep.

Market round-up

C&D Auction Marts Ltd sold three prime heifers in Dumfries on Wednesday to a top of 201p per kg and an average of 196.6p, while a couple of prime bullocks peaked at 197p and levelled at 193.6p.

In the rough ring 57 beef cows sold to 151p and averaged 105p, while 52 dairy cows peaked at 110p and levelled at 87p.

The firm also sold 334 prime lambs to a top of £101.50 per head and 196p per kg to average 185p (-1p on the week).

A nice show of 376 cast sheep saw heavy ewes sell to £145.50 for a Texel and average £72.12, while light/export-type ewes peaked at £68.50 for Blackfaces and levelled at £35.60.

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 574 prime lambs in Newton Stewart on Wednesday to a top of £100 and 202.1p to average 181.8p (+3.2p).

A small offering of cast sheep saw 65 heavy ewes sell to £124 for Suffolks and average £90.14, while 27 light ewes peaked at £67 for Blackfaces and levelled at £62.22.