By Neale McQuistin

Figures released yesterday from the Scottish Dairy Cattle Association show that Scottish dairy farms continue to reduce in number.

In the first six months of 2020, Scotland saw a net loss of 17 dairy herds and cow numbers decreased by 1,031. The total dairy units are currently 862 with a total number of cows of 177,459 making the average herd size now 206 cows, an increase of three.

The areas suffering the greatest herd losses were Wigtownshire and Ayrshire, which each lost five dairy herds and Lanarkshire lost four. However, there is still a degree of confidence with new dairies starting up and previous herds resuming milking in Dumfriesshire, Stirlingshire, Lanarkshire, and Wigtownshire.

Although the number of milk recorded herds also decreased, the total number of cows being recorded increased by 732, to a total 129,069, with 73% of the Scottish dairy cows now being officially milk recorded. The majority of the remaining cows are tested for somatic cell counts and milk composites several times per year, and also disease tested and/or pregnancy diagnosed through milk samples. The average size of milk recorded herds increased by seven to 222 cows per herd. Commenting on the latest figures Janette Mathie, secretary for the Scottish Dairy Cattle Association, which maintains the database, said: “The last few months have been difficult for milk processors and producers alike, with demand for milk and dairy products cut overnight. Steps are now being taken, through the Defra dairy contract consultation, to try and negotiate contracts which are fair to all parties concerned. Fewer dairy farms and larger herds has been a trend for some years and indications are that this will continue. Large herds, especially, are utilising the tools available to them such as milk recording, to aid on-farm management decisions and improve the health of the Scottish dairy herd."

Market round-up

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 1264 prime and cast sheep in Newton Stewart yesterday.

The 1019 prime lambs averaged 222p/kg with well fleshed lambs commanding a premium. Top prices were £116 for heavy weight Lleyns and 238p/kg for Beltex. All classes of cast sheep were still nice to sell topping at £129 for Texel ewes, while Mule ewes made up to £87. Prime hoggs sold to £72 for Lleyns and Blackfaces to £70.

C&D Auction Marts Ltd held their sale of primestock at Dumfries yesterday.

Prime cattle sold to 240p/kg. Cast dairy cows peaked at 148p and averaged 111p or £941, while cast beef cows topped at 151p and averaged 134p or £1076.

Prime lambs (844) remain a good trade for all classes. Top prices were £110 for heavyweights and 253p/kg for lightweights. Cast ewes sold to £108 for Suffolks and £80 for Cheviots.