NFU Scotland is calling again on the Scottish Government to urgently bring forward details on its proposed reform of the Scottish Suckler Beef Support

Scheme (SSBSS). There is concern among farmers that herd performance in

2024 could impact payments in 2025, particularly around the recording of calf deaths and births.

Payments to eligible calves under the current scheme year are imminent but proposed changes to the scheme rules for 2025 and beyond, including the introduction of calving interval rules, have yet to be shared with the industry.

Whilst no clear guidance on the future scheme has materialised NFUS has set out their demands. In a letter to the Scottish Government, they are calling for:

  • The budget be retained and continue to be delivered in the same cyclical manner,
  • Split payments between meeting existing eligibility criteria and new conditionality,
  • A mechanism for recognition of pre-registration of stillborn calves.
  • For a ‘force majeure’ option to be available for any producers affected by unforeseen or exceptional circumstances.

Any eligible beef calf born after December 2, 2023, will fall under the scheme reform, as NFU Scotland understands that the existing 30-day retention period will remain as part of the reform.

NFUS believes that, regrettably, there will already be a very small number of cows who lost their calves at birth and are therefore not registered to trigger  next year’s calving interval period. It has asked for a mechanism for registration of stillborn calves integrated into the reform to ensure that a cow is not penalised in future years for not having a full-term pregnancy recognised.

It is also currently common industry practice that when a calf sadly dies before the 27-day legal time limit for tagging and registration, it is often not registered, therefore no record of the dam’s calving date will exist. As NFUS understand the proposals, any future calves that cow has may be viewed as ineligible.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We will be announcing the details of the new conditions shortly but beef producers, as the only beef producers in the UK receiving additional support from government to help maintain production, can be assured that this remains our intention.”