What will or won’t be classed as exceptional circumstances or force majeure in the future beef calf scheme is causing uproar among beef farmers.

Many suckler producers are worried that being hit with an unproductive bull or a disease outbreak like IBR will not qualify as an exceptional circumstance, which could cost them thousands of pounds in payments.

So far, the Scottish Government refuses to be drawn on specifics and states claims will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

When asked directly by The Scottish Farmer what qualifies for an exceptional circumstance, the government produced a non-exhaustive list of examples such as the death or incapacity of the farmer, a severe natural disaster, the accidental destruction of livestock buildings, and an epizootic disease such as foot-and-mouth.

READ MORE | Scottish Beef Association calls to delay beef calf scheme rollout

The government stresses this was not the list and further discussions with industry were happening. However, it did clearly state that normal commercial risks cannot be considered as force majeure or exceptional circumstances. A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We announced in March that from 2025 beef calves would only be eligible for payment under the Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme if their dam has a calving interval threshold of 410 days or less, or if the calf is the first registered birth associated with that dam.

“If a calf claimed in the 2025 scheme year fails to meet this condition then it will not receive a payment under the planned reform. This condition is designed to help balance productivity and profitability with the opportunity to address climate impact of excess emissions.

“This condition will use information which is available from ScotEID. Under existing traceability rules, farmers and crofters should be aware that all calf births must be recorded on ScotEID within 27 days of birth according to cattle identification and traceability regulations.

“There is no requirement to register calves that have died before that deadline under either the traceability regulations or future scheme requirements. However, unregistered calves that have died before the 27 day deadline will not be considered when establishing a calving interval.

“Decisions on force majeure and exceptional circumstances are taken on a case by case basis and on the basis of relevant evidence.”

This has left many in the industry fearing that disease outbreaks and bulls failing to serve cows will not be covered.

Scottish Beef Association chair, Paul Ross, said: “We need something to recognise the impact of injured or unknowingly infertile bulls or cattle with health issues. We are calling for a delay to the implementation of the scheme.”

Females which fail to hit a 410 day calving interval will not produce calves eligible for the scheme which currently rewards farmers between £100 and £150 per claim.

Chief executive of the National Beef Association Neil Shand stated: “We have had a meeting with civil servants and a letter back from the Cabinet Secretary who has no idea how her own schemes works. We have now written another letter to the Cabinet Secretary asking for a delay until December 2025 before the qualifying period starts.

“The letter this time puts a lot of emphasis on discrimination as every cow that calved from October 19, 2023 until they announced the rules in March 26, 2024 has been discriminated from participation in the scheme because no one knew the rules.”