Suckler Beef Climate Scheme: final report

Final report from the Suckler Beef Climate Group on development and delivery recommendations for sustainable suckler beef production in Scotland.

11. Additional scheme proposals

The recommendations put forward by the Suckler Beef Climate Group have been compiled, reviewed and presented on the basis of robust current knowledge and research, as well as the practical on-farm applicability of such findings and developments. The group does recognise that further advances are constantly being made within scientific studies and industry research, and recommends that these should be followed closely for potential future incorporation into the SBCS or other sector-related support mechanisms. The proposed mid-term scheme review will offer an opportunity during the initial pilot scheme to adjust and expand management options in line with new research findings emerging and industry management tools being developed. This approach to updating an agricultural support scheme on a regular basis is strongly recommended by the group and will enable the Scottish farming industry as a whole to progress and lead on crucial issues such as climate change.

The following comments highlight just a few of the many ongoing projects and debates that the group feels are worth noting and incorporating into the scheme once further research has been conducted, and/or the necessary tools been developed for practical on-farm application. The group has attempted to familiarise itself with as many relevant and ongoing scientific and industry-led projects as possible, but welcomes and encourages any proposals to explore additional studies and innovative ideas not mentioned within this report in order to review their potential for integration into the scheme.

Targeted selective treatment (TST)

TST refers to a concept whereby treatments are not administered routinely or to a whole group of animals but instead to individuals within regularly weighed management groups on the basis of specified indicators such as daily liveweight gains in an attempt to better manage and maintain animal health and to minimise the risk of anthelmintic resistance building up in parasites. The Moredun Research Institute has carried out promising trials within sheep flocks using nutritional data to predict the expected daily liveweight gains that lambs should reach, and treating those failing to reach those targets. Results have shown a potential to significantly reduce on-farm usage of wormers whilst enhancing animal performance. Additional trial work on cattle and the development of a commercially available tool to convert nutritional information into predicted daily liveweight gain targets would be extremely useful and should be considered for inclusion within the SBCS and/or other sector specific future agricultural support schemes once available.

Soil carbon database

The scheme includes a proposed minimum requirement for participating farmers to carry out regular soil analysis including measuring soil carbon stores on any farmland that receives inputs. This is intended to provide a starting point to help move towards a clearer understanding of the exact soil carbon levels that can be found across different types of agricultural land that is subjected to differing soil management, and ties in with recommendations put forward by the Farming for 1.5°C group in their "Evidence submission on the Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee of the Scottish Parliament" [105]. The data collated as part of the SBCS should be used as starting point to establish a Scotland-wide database, and compulsory soil carbon analysis should be rolled out across all farming sectors as recommended within the aforementioned report. Whilst the report proposes for such soil analysis to be carried out on enclosed farmland, consideration should also be given to carrying out some degree of upland soil analysis so as to establish a clearer picture of the likely carbon stores that are currently present across the actively farmed hills and uplands of Scotland. Such a nationwide real-life dataset will provide a valuable inventory for more accurate soil carbon accounting on the basis of farmland type and management going forward.

Antibiotic database

The scheme includes a proposed management option aimed at encouraging better use of antibiotics. In order to maximise the effectiveness of this option and enable better monitoring of actual antibiotic use, the setting up of a central database to track purchases and usage levels of antibiotics should be considered as part of this management option. This is suggested as an initial step before eventually rolling out such a database across all Scottish livestock sectors to better monitor and identify hotspots of antibiotic usage, and better target support to help those businesses who rely on higher levels of antibiotic use to address the underlying cause(s) of their heavier reliance and find long-term solutions through practical on-farm management changes.



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