Commercial beef cattle numbers have been in a downward spiral for a number of years, but moves are afoot to halt that decline and eventually reverse the trend.

That was the good news story from Scotland's Beef Event, staged last week in Aberdeenshire at North Bethelnie, Old Meldrum, where rural economy secretary, Fergus Ewing, hinted at a 'beefed up' suckler calf scheme.

Opening the event – staged by kind permission of Robbie and Barbara Milne, and son James – Mr Ewing said he was 100% behind Scottish farming and Scottish agriculture and was determined to work with government officials and the Scottish Beef Cattle Association towards achieving a sustainable beef industry.

Speaking at the event which attracted in excess of 4000 farmers from throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, he said that while talks were at an advanced stage in providing additional finance to support, the most suitable idea coming forward was that of an increased suckled calf scheme.

"I have made sure the Scottish Government knows of the problems within the industry in the event of a 'no deal' Brexit and of the need to halt the ongoing decline in suckler cow numbers," said Mr Ewing.

"Industry is of the opinion that area-based schemes could encourage inertia and that support should be – while I can't say today – that we are committed to such an approach as this, a scheme of this sort would be one way of providing potential assistance.

"The beef calf scheme is a vehicle which supports higher cow numbers and could be deployed to provide support and halt the decline in suckler cow numbers. It is a tried and tested system and one which could be the most effective way to support suckler cow numbers – without it threatens critical mass which would have severe repercussions throughout the production chain from the abattoirs and meat processors to machinery dealers and other rural suppliers," said Mr Ewing.

"It is crucial we get something in place and I am pushing for a seriously enhanced beef calf scheme."

Mr Ewing also said he was continuing to press the UK government to provide a series of financial support measures in the event of 'no-deal Brexit' and tarriff barriers in the light of the recent EU support for the Irish beef sector which amounts to €100m from the EU and Irish government funds.

Outwith future support measures, the cabinet secretary said farmers in the Beef Efficiency Scheme, which is now in it's third year, can now look forward to receiving information in the next two to three months on how each animal on their farm has performed, and how they can further improve their beef operations which in turn would help reduce carbon emissions.

And, contrary to popular belief that cattle farming is a major contributer to climate change he said: "If best practices are employed, farming and climate change go hand in hand. Farming is not the problem – it is the solution."

Colin Clark, MP for Gordon, who was speaking at the Brexit seminar was equally confident farming could be the solution to climate change.

"Productive farming and the environment can go hand in hand. Organic farming is not going to feed the world but productive, efficient farming will. Farmers should be paid for the amount of carbon sequestered on their farms."

He added: "Let me make it clear, the government if committed to UK agriculture. Productive farming and the environment can go hand in hand and government intends to support that."

Furthermore, he advised producers not to get hung up on the surge of veganism when there is only a small proportion of the population who practice the trend.

"It's about time the industry fought back against the myth that being a vegan is healthier than eating a balanced diet," concluded Mr Clark.

Backing up these statements, agricultural economist Peter Cook advised farmers to shout from the rooftops about the excellent sustainability behind beef and lamb production in Scotland.

“The industry has been rubbish at selling its story,” he said. “We have a wonderful story to tell – we need tell it well and tell it widely. We should take the high ground and do it cleverly – we need to get in there!”

AWARD winners

Breed societies – 1, British Simmental Cattle Society; 2, British Charolais Cattle Society

Trade stands – 1, Ravenhill Ltd; 2, Waterfuel Engineering Ltd.

Stockjudging – Under 14s – 1, Finlay Millar. Young Farmers' – 1= Mark Wattie, Alford and Amy Ingram, Inverurie (222points); 2, David Steel, Forfar (219); 3, Carrie Hamilton, Inverross (211). Ladies – 1, Jane Orr (207); 2, Jan Hamilton (202); 3= Michelle Hanson and Kerry Omand (200). Gents – 1 and overall winner, Cameron MacIver (224); 2, Adam Johnston (223); 3, William Black (222).