Agricultural census data from the Scottish Government has shown that the national sheep flock declined by almost 2.9 million between 1998 and 2009. Similarly, the beef cattle herd declined by 110,783 over the same period. The greatest declines in livestock have been in the hills and uplands of the north and west of Scotland. These declines have been fuelled by a combination of factors, including a general down-turn in the economic viability of hill farms and changes in the way that livestock farmers are subsidised. The changes in hill farming and crofting that have resulted from the decline in livestock numbers have had economic, social and natural heritage impacts. Conservation and natural heritage objectives in some parts of Scotland depend on the continuation of livestock farming. Livestock farming is also an integral part of the culture and history of rural Scotland, and is vital to the rural economy. The aim of this project was to gather information on what is happening on the ground in terms of livestock declines, the changes in management associated with these declines, and the impacts of these changes on the natural heritage and rural communities.
SNH Commissioned Report 454 – Impact of the decline in hill farming.
5 September 2011
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