About What you can do Benefits News and Events Farming Facts Downloads and Links Farmers Blog Contacts  

Scottish FarmingCattle and Sheep FarmsDairy Farms in ScotlandPig Farms ScotlandPoultry FarmsCereal Farming in ScotlandPotatoes and Other CropsFarming's Contribution to the EnvironmentFarming in Europe

Cattle and Sheep Farms

Some farms 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.

The combination of beef and sheep, sometimes mixed with a small area of cropped land, brings various benefits in terms of biological and landscape diversity.

Beef cattle

• Scotch 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 million.
• 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 France.

Some farmers 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 brand.


• There 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.

The industry 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.

Lowland flocks tend to benefit from comparatively better climate, improved soil type and better grazing which combine to produce quality prime lamb.

If you would like to learn more about quality assurance of Scotch beef and Scotch lamb, please visit the Quality Meat Scotland website on www.qmscotland.co.uk.