Crofting: national development plan

This plan highlights the core elements necessary to ensure that crofting remains at the heart of our rural and remote rural communities.

Cattle Improvement Scheme

The Scottish Government completed its £3 million renovation of the stud farm facilities at Knocknagael in Inverness in April 2013. The modernised stud facility provides quality accommodation for the bulls, optimising their welfare and enabling crofters to continue to benefit from access to high quality, healthy bulls and the supply of quality calves to the beef industry throughout Scotland and beyond. The bulls purchased for the scheme are chosen using Estimated Breeding Values (EBV). All bulls purchased are in the top 50% of EBV for their breeds, producing a quality progeny for selling or from which to breed replacement heifers from. Despite the level of investment, as at November 2020, the hire costs of the bulls have only been increased in line with inflation. The scheme subsidises bull hire by groups of crofters, by up to 60% of the full cost.

The scheme supplies bulls to areas where no practical alternative means of service are readily available. Scheme staff are available to offer advice and guidance on all matters relating to the husbandry and welfare of the bulls, their mates and progeny. Some townships have returned to the scheme, citing that it is their best option to obtain a good quality sire for their cattle. Approximately 3,500 calves are sired annually by Scottish Government bulls, from which home-bred replacement heifers are retained and the surplus sold on.

The table below provides statistics on the number of bulls hired, the number of groups of crofters involved, and the number of beneficiaries.

Year Bulls Hired No. of Participating townships No. of Crofters Benefiting
2015 - 16 105 96 499
2016 – 17 111 113 498
2017 – 18 111 136 497
2018 – 19 112 117 492
2019 - 20 117 137 494
2020 – 21 115 120 485

Case Study

Eoligarry Township

Eoligarry township on the Isle of Barra has hired bulls from the stud for over 40 years. They hire an Aberdeen Angus and a Continental breed, usually a Limousin, but recently a Simmental was used with a view to producing milkier home-bred replacement heifers.

There are 11 crofters in the group, with approximately 60 cows between them. Calves are sold as stores at Autumn sales in Lochboisdale and Dalmally and are greatly sought after for their quality and excellent health status.

Angus John Morrison has the largest proportion of the cattle and predominantly uses a Limousin bull. "The bull hire scheme gives easy access to a good quality, high health status bull at a reasonable cost. Being able to have the bull delivered only when the cows are ready, and then collected when the season was over, adds to the benefit. Also, the assurance that should a problem arise with the bull, a replacement would be arranged as soon as possible and any veterinary care required would be covered".

All of Angus John's calves are sold at Dalmally with the exception of the heifers retained for breeding. They always attain the top price, going to a mainland producer who in turn sells them on to the same finisher as they show excellent growth rates and finish with good carcass quality.

The Aberdeen Angus cross calves from the township similarly sell to repeat buyers and are finished as a premium product.



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