Dairy herds in Scotland have slipped to less than 900, according to the latest statistics from the Scottish Dairy Cattle Association which found numbers have slipped by 27 between January 1, 2019 and the same date in 2018.

As a result, there are now 891 dairy herds in Scotland, compared to 5735 herds when records began in 1903. Lanarkshire lost the most herds, with the area accounting for just 97 herds now, while South west Scotland is still increasing in herds albeit at a slower rate compared to recent years. Ayrshire boasts the most number of herds with 216, followed by Dumfriesshire on 151 and Wigtownshire with 132.

Banffshire is the only area without a milking herd, while Inverness-shire, Ross and Cromarty and the Outer Hebrides are home to just one each.

On the other side of the equation, cow numbers overall have increased on the year by 610, with the average herd size in Scotland now standing at 201 – up six on the year and the highest on record. The total number of cows milking in Scotland is 179,538 – the highest since 1997.

Officially milk recorded cows take up more than 70% of the population. There has also been a sizeable increase in somatic cell count monitoring and a rise in disease testing especially for Johnes with milk buyers, farmers and industry partners all realising the financial benefits of improving milk quality and disease awareness.

Furthermore, an increasing number of farmers are using the milk test for pregnancy checks which incurs no stress to the cows and is giving good results.

Commenting on the results, Janette Mathie, the secretary of the SDCA said: “2019 will see uncertain challenges for our industry but there is still a lot of long standing commitment and optimism with increased herd sizes and new dairy units due to start up throughout the year.”