A clear message that livestock production in Scotland deserves recognition for its valuable sustainability role, has come from Jim McLaren, Chairman of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), at the Royal Highland Show.
During a presentation attended by Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Mr McLaren warned that in the drive to lower emissions it was vital to avoid any “knee jerk, quick win” measures which would simply result in reduced output.
“The red meat industry, and ruminant production systems in particular, are regularly in the firing line when climate change is discussed,” observed Mr McLaren.
“The reality is that Scotland is uniquely placed to capitalise on its ability to convert human inedible forage protein into human edible red meat protein through the medium of the rumen, with 85% of our land being less favoured and much of that down to rough grazing.
“It is essential that we maintain production in these areas if we are to avoid squandering the opportunity to utilise these precious resources.”
Mr McLaren said QMS is working hard to assist the industry to improve efficiency and reduce costs and waste through a range of industry development projects. These include a new network of Grazing Groups which get underway next month and will focus on the substantial potential benefits of improving the utilisation of grassland.
QMS Knowledge Transfer Specialist , Michael Blanche, and one of the Grazing Group host farmers Jim Logan of Pirntaton near Galashiels, explained the aims of the new Groups to the Minister.
“The overall objective of the Grazing Groups is to increase the kilos of meat produced per hectare through better utilisation of grass,” said Mr Blanche.
“After the initial meetings the plan is to calculate each farm’s benchmark of kilos of liveweight produced per hectare and then analyse where we can make improvements without increasing costs or labour input. The challenge will be there for all group members to go back to their farm and increase their production too.”
He added “There is a lot of talk about performance per ewe or cow but stocking rate is a major driver of profit on any farm. Higher stocking rates demand real skills in grazing management and feed budgeting and a significant goal of the groups is to refine those skills with the help of grazing experts.”
The other four host farmers are Duncan Scott of Bayfield, Nigg; Ahren and Louise Urquhart, Maryfield, Aboyne; Alexander Brewster of Rotmell, Dunkeld and Ean Stewart, Challochmun, Glenluce.