Scottish stakeholders met in Edinburgh on Wednesday (August 1) identifying solutions to the feed and fodder shortfalls to be faced by farmers and crofters in the country this winter.

In an exceptional year, months of cold, wet weather last winter and spring have been followed by the hottest and driest spell for a generation.

In the meeting, which was coordinated by National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland, industry leaders heard how grass growth for cattle and sheep has ground to a halt.

Many livestock farmers are already feeding hay and silage that was intended for the coming winter and supplies of all feed and bedding are challenging to secure.

For cereal growers, early indications are that the winter barley harvest has been, at best, average.

Spring barley, sown during a cold, wet spring, will see its harvest start in earnest in the coming weeks – as Scotland’s most important arable crop, its success is crucial for the industry.

Support is there

Speaking afterwards, NFUS vice president Martin Kennedy said: “Exceptionally volatile weather over the past 12 months has made this a costly and difficult time for all farmers and crofters. That is having an impact that no one could have predicted.

“It was hugely worthwhile pulling in key stakeholders as we all work to identify short-term solutions that may address the serious shortfall in feed and fodder that is emerging.

There is no silver bullet, but farmers can be reassured that help and advice is available from several of those around the table.

“Many have already started planning and through our ‘#NFUSHowDoYouPlan’ campaign, where we are urging farmers and crofters to plan ahead; consider alternatives and collaborate. The sooner farmers start that process, the better.

“In the past few weeks, we have seen examples of arable growers turning off the choppers on their combines and baling more straw for their livestock neighbours.

“Grass margins around arable fields have been baled for fodder; plantings of fodder crops like kale are on the rise and livestock keepers have shifted from bedding their animals on barley straw to alternatives.

“This is set to be an extremely challenging autumn and winter, but those around the table are committed to helping the industry through it.”

Organisations attending the meeting included: Scottish Government; Scottish Beef Association; Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB); Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS); Scottish Machinery Ring Association; Scotland’s rural charity, RSABI; Scottish Dairy Hub; Maltsters Association of Great Britain; Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC); NSA Scotland; Scotch Whisky Association; SAC Consulting and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

NFU Scotland representatives included: Vice presidents Martin Kennedy and Gary Mitchell; Livestock Committee chairman Charlie Adam; Combinable Crops Committee chairman Ian Sands; and Less Favoured Areas Committee chairman Robert MacDonald.