specialise in either cattle or sheep production, but many farms
keep both. In Scotland, cattle and sheep are usually reared extensively
- they are mainly fed outside and on grass and they are only housed
in the worst weather or when they are lambing or calving.
of beef and sheep, sometimes mixed with a small area of cropped
land, brings various benefits in terms of biological and landscape
beef is world renowned for its quality.
• Scotland has just over 1 million beef cattle, including
almost 496,000 breeding beef cows.
• Total production is 180,000 tonnes of beef worth £400
• Beef cattle are kept on almost 13,000 holdings.
• Scotland has almost 30% of the UK herd of breeding cattle
and 4% of the EU herd.
• The UK beef herd is the second largest in Europe, after
rear beef cattle from birth until they are ready for slaughter.
Farmers in the North West of Scotland, for example, tend to rear
beef cattle until they are between 6-12 months old and then sell
them as “stores” to farmers in lowland areas for fattening.
Some lowland farmers only keep cattle for fattening or “finishing”
and do not have any breeding animals.
Beef is also
produced from the male calves and unwanted female calves from
the dairy herd. The majority of beef production operates through
a quality assurance scheme with beef sold under the Scotch Beef
are around 8 million sheep in Scotland.
• 3 million finished lambs produced 55,200 tonnes of meat
worth £120 million.
• Breeding sheep are kept on around 15,815 holdings. 4%
of these holdings have almost 30% of the breeding flock.
• Scotland has more than 20% of the UK breeding flock of
15.3 million ewes. The UK has the largest sheep flock in the EU
– over a quarter of the total EU flock.
is organised into three tiers: hill; upland and lowland.
Hill flocks are the main breeding flocks with the majority of
ewe lambs retained as flock replacements for older ewes, which
are generally sold on to farms on the slightly lower ground after
four lamb crops.
tend to benefit from comparatively better climate, improved soil
type and better grazing which combine to produce quality prime
If you would
like to learn more about quality assurance of Scotch beef and
Scotch lamb, please visit the Quality Meat Scotland website on