The results of the December Agricultural Survey, released yesterday by the Scottish Government's Chief Statistician, reveals reductions in the area of winter-planted cereals and livestock numbers.

The area of winter-sown crops in December 2017 was down 11 per cent on December 2016, at 174,000 hectares. There were 93,000 hectares of wheat, down 11 per cent, and 42,000 hectares of winter barley. The barley figure was 20 per cent down on 2016 and was the lowest since the 1970s. There were also reductions in the area planted with oats and oilseed rape. The low areas of winter-planted crops are likely to be made up for by higher spring plantings.

Cattle numbers fell 1 per cent, to 1.69 million. There was a slight decrease in beef cattle (down 1.3 per cent) but a small increase in dairy cattle (up 0.3 per cent).

December sheep numbers fell 3 per cent to 4.91 million. Pig numbers fell 6 per cent to 345,000, and poultry numbers fell one per cent.

Average rents are estimated to have increased slightly to £39 per hectare. The average for LFA (Less Favoured Area) land remained at £25 per hectare, with non-LFA land increasing to £136 per hectare. These averages include those who have not had reviews, as well as those who have had above average increases, and are also affected by changes in the profile of the tenanted sector.

Gavin Dick, AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) Knowledge Exchange Manager for Cereals and Oilseeds said: "There is no surprise in the reduction of autumn-drilled crops, particularly winter barley, which is largely down to the very challenging weather conditions during the key establishment period last autumn. The impact of the reduction in winter barley will be felt for a number of years as rotations will be knocked out of synch as growers lose their entry for oilseed rape, particularly in the northern parts of the country.

"It should also be noted that whilst the wheat area is down by 11 per cent, there was a significant area of wheat established well after optimum drilling dates and it's likely that yields will have been compromised for those crops."

Mr Dick went on: "The main challenge for growers going forward will be to re-establish their rotations and ensure they have a viable entry for oilseed rape in autumn 2018, which will be exacerbated by the later spring we are now experiencing."

Market round-up

Lawrie & Symington Ltd had 538 store cattle forward in Lanark on Tuesday when heifers sold to 246p per kg and averaged 225.6p (+8.2p on the previous sale), while bullocks peaked at 261p and levelled at 229.3p (+0.4p).