SCOTTISH FARMERS and crofters have been left feeling frustrated following errors in the administration of the Beef Efficiency Scheme.

Many Scottish beef producers were sent letters warning that they were in breach of the scheme requirement to enter the weights of their cattle into the ScotEID database, despite them having already done so.

The Scottish Government is writing to those who may have unfairly received these letters, but Scottish Beef Association chair, Neil McCorkindale, said that this was yet ‘another setback’ to an already underperforming scheme.

“These recent errors just flag up what is already a complex scheme – one that our members have voiced their disappointment with from the start. There was a real opportunity here to improve both efficiency in the beef sector and to address climate change targets, but it threw so many complications at farmers that many left the scheme,” he said.

“BES encouraged farmers to do a carbon audit which was a really positive part of the process. However, the Scottish Government told me on Tuesday that they have no intention of revising the scheme to negate the problems it’s currently facing. Without a more palatable revamp, farmers are not going to take part.”

BES requires beef farmers and crofters to undertake several on-farm activities such as tissue sampling, weight recording and collecting calving data. Late last year, some scheme members also reported that they were being asked to collect tissue samples over and above those required by the scheme rules.

NFU Scotland president, Andrew McCornick, commented: “The BES has always been one backed by the sound principles of improving the productivity of the Scottish beef herd, while providing support to hard-working farmers and crofters. However, the recent errors involving the recording of weights and tissue sampling will have further soured the experience of participating in the scheme.

“While several farmers received warning letters in error, we understand that some will also have received genuine ones. Moving forward, we hope that the scheme administration can be improved and that ScotGov will dedicate the necessary resource to provide a high level of support to beef producers taking part in BES.”

He added: “Longer term, we are working hard to develop a future support policy for Scottish agriculture that includes the ambition to build a truly functional support system that delivers for the Scottish beef sector.”

A ScotGov spokesperson said: “We regret any inconvenience caused by the warning letters that were issued in error. Swift action has been taken to contact every producer affected, to apologise and provide clarity about the situation. Looking forward, ScotGov is committed to working with the NFUS and others to support the beef sector, building on the experience of the BES.