National Test Programme - testing actions for sustainable farming phase one: survey report

Testing actions for sustainable farming phase 1 survey was to understand the current state of the uptake of sustainable farming practices and motivations/barriers for farmers and crofters to inform phase 2 of the National Test Programme.

3. Executive Summary

Invites and Respondents:

  • A total of 5275 invitations were sent out with a total of 1653 (31.3%, 1653/5275) respondents reacting to the initial invitation requesting a link to the survey.
  • The target of 1500 respondents was an aim for the survey and was not fixed.
  • A total of 977 participants (803 farmers, 174 crofters) completed the survey resulting in a completion rate of 59.1% (977/1653) of those requesting the survey link or 18.5% (977/5275) of those invited.
  • 125 respondents identified that the majority partner/director of the business is female.
  • 84 respondents identified that the majority partner/director of the business is a young farmer.
  • The Testing Actions for Sustainable Farming Survey has captured a representative sample of farming across the entirety of Scotland. The results reflect the stratification methodology set out by RESAS and will allow for meaningful analysis for the current state of Scotlands agricultural sector with regards to the actions surveyed.

Survey Analysis:

  • The survey results have demonstrated that the larger the business the more likely the business is to undertake various action plans and assessments.
  • Some businesses do not undertake the various management actions because they do not know enough about the process.
  • Respondents are conscious of the time and cost required to undertake these practices believing these actions will have a negative impact on business production. They cannot see the benefit in implementing these actions as part of the running of their business.
  • Many businesses have noted they do not have a breeding or animal health and welfare plan because their enterprise is too small, they rely on body condition scoring of animals appropriate for the time of year or examining their livestock performance as to whether the forage is of good quality.
  • Many respondents commented that unless there was a good reason for each action, a better understanding and a benefit to the business they would continue to resist undertaking these actions.

Actions Analysis:

Carbon Audit:

  • Of the 38.1% of businesses that have undertaken a carbon audit the majority have done so because it was part of the Beef Efficiency Scheme (48.4%) or funding was available at the time to have the carbon audit done (34.1%).

Soil Testing:

  • Majority of businesses undertake soil testing to reduce input costs (66.9%).
  • The most common practice conducted by respondents is keeping pH at an optimum level (98.9%).

Nutrient Management Plan:

  • Over half of respondents who undertake a Nutrient Management Plan are located within a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (54.8%) where it is regulation to undertake.

Manure Analysis:

  • One of the main reasons for respondents to carry out manure analysis is to help them reduce fertiliser use (69.1%).

Forage Analysis:

  • After conducting forage analysis respondents noted that they changed the volume of forage fed (40.2%).

Feed Ration Plan:

  • Respondents stated that having a feed ration plan reduced their concentrate usage per head (56.1%).
  • Many of the respondents stated that they rely on body condition scoring of animals appropriate for the time of year.

Animal Health and Welfare Plan:

  • Respondents create an animal health and welfare plan because it is good practice (77%).

Breeding Plan:

  • Respondents who undertake a breeding plan note it is because they believe it improves livestock performance (84.1%) and improves business efficiency (71.3%).


  • Only a small number of the total number of respondents (28.5%) have undertaken a biodiversity audit.
  • Respondents who have undertaken a biodiversity audit due to it being a requirement for a Agri-environment scheme (60.8%).
  • Others have also noted that they undertook the audit to better assess and understand what biodiversity they have on their business (55.4%).

Final Notes:

  • The answers supplied by the respondents will feed into the National Test Programme: Preparing for Sustainable Farming and Testing Actions for Sustainable Farming.
  • Out of the 977 participants that completed the survey, 86.5% (845) have said they are willing to partake in Phase 2.



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