The average herd size has now increased to 195, up 14 on the year – the highest on record – with the total number of milking cows at 178,928, the highest since 1997.
In Scotland there are now only 918 dairy herds compared to 5,735 herds when records began in 1903. The largest dairying county continues to be Ayrshire with 35,698 cows closely followed by Dumfriesshire, Wigtownshire and Kirkcudbrightshire.
Janette Mathie, SDCA secretary commented: “We know of more herds intending to cease milk production this year, but we also know of entirely new herds starting up, as there were during 2017, but the overall trend of less herds and more cows will continue.”
NFU Scotland Vice President Gary Mitchell said: “The decline in the number of dairy farmers in Scotland is disappointing and leads to worries about a critical mass of producers being retained, particularly in more remote areas.
“In previous downturns, many producers have been able to ride out the storm, but the dairy crisis of 2015/16 has been particularly damaging and left many dairy farmers with little appetite for continuing to milk cows. Constantly dealing with volatility, difficulties in sourcing labour and the lack of a successor coming on who is prepared to milk cows will all have been factors in the decline in dairy farms.”
Mr Mitchell went on: “Although dairy cow numbers are up, this may mask changes further ahead. Before the steep falls in 2015 and 2016, dairy semen usage was high and these will be the cows entering herds now. Since that downturn, anecdotal evidence suggests a significant upturn in beef semen in dairy herds, and that is likely to be reflected in a sharp reduction in dairy young-stock numbers in the forthcoming census.”
Lawrie & Symington Ltd had 836 store cattle forward in Lanark on Tuesday when heifers sold to 247.4p per kg and averaged 215.2p, while beef-bred bullocks peaked at 261.6p and levelled at 222.3p. Dairy-bred bullocks sold to 202.5p and averaged 154.1p.
Wallets Marts sold 1301 prime hoggs in Castle Douglas on Tuesday to a top of £117 per head or 285.4p per kg to average £78.13 or 185.6p (+8.7p on the week).
There were also 301 cast sheep forward when 122 heavy ewes sold to £85 for Texels and averaged £60.14, while 171 light/export-type ewes peaked at £66 for Cheviots and levelled at £37.54.