Poor weather affected the output of Scottish agriculture over the past year, figures from the Scottish government has shown.
The snow storm in the spring affected sheep numbers, which fell to a five-year low. The total sheep count dropped by 6% or 392,000, with lamb numbers falling by 8%. The number of breeding ewes also decreased, by 4%. Cattle numbers have followed a similar trend and are down to 1.76 million, continuing a 60 year decline. Both dairy and beef numbers were down slightly.
The Scottish government’s chief statistician released the results from the June 2018 Agricultural Census which also highlighted the difficult growing conditions the cereal sector as a result of adverse weather. The data shows the total area of cereals in Scotland dropped by 3% or 12,900 hectares.
The area of barley, which is Scotland’s biggest crop, fell by 1% or 3,300 hectares. Wheat and oats have experienced similar negative results with a drop of 9% and 2% respectively. However, rye continued to rise with an increase of 6%. This is still a minor crop with 5,800 hectares planted.
Vegetables used to feed animals have increased for the first time since 2010. This rise of 5% coincided with a decrease in vegetables grown for human consumption for the first time since 2011.
The statistics also showed an estimated increase in poultry numbers of 2% to 14.5 million chickens. This meant an increase of 4% in birds used for meat production (called broilers), yet for the second year in a row the number of egg-laying birds outnumbered broilers.
In addition to these statistics, the number of people estimated to be working in agriculture has decreased by 400 to 66,600. Rented agricultural land has also fallen to around 22%, its first noticeable drop since 2014. There were over 11,000 hectares of land rented under the new Modern Limited Duration Tenancy (MLDT) arrangements.
Agriculture continues to dominate the Scottish landscape with around 80% of the area used for farming and agriculture related activity, with a total of 51,200 agricultural holdings.