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Sheep

QMS aims to generate confidence in the Scottish sheep sector and to improve its sustainability and profitability.

This work is led by the Scottish Sheep Industry Group, which is made up of industry representatives, and focuses on work to improve uptake of grassroots technology, increase the uptake of farm benchmarking, and reduce the level of carbon emissions associated with Scotch Lamb production.

Particular focus is paid to reducing production costs, improving the quality and consistency of Scotch lamb and increasing the demand for recorded breeding stock.

In 2017, Scottish sheep farmers generated a turnover equal to 8.5% of all Scottish agricultural output, from the sale of animals for meat production and breeding.  Sheep production is the most common enterprise found on Scottish farm holdings with some 29% of holdings keeping sheep.

Sheep production is concentrated in the South of Scotland, with Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish borders the home to 31% of all the breeding sheep followed by Highland region with a further 15% of breeding sheep.

In autumn 2014, the number of breeding sheep in Scotland stood at just over 3m head an improvement of 5% on 2013; but 12% smaller than a decade ago.

Almost half of the lambs reared in Scotland each year for meat and more than 90% of cull ewes used for mutton production are exported live to abattoirs in England and Wales.  Nevertheless, Scottish abattoirs produced nearly 23,405 tonnes of sheep meat in 2017 with around one-quarter of this meat being sold outside the UK and a further 60% to customers in the rest of the UK.

The above information was derived from data published by the Scottish Government. More information about the shape and scale of Scotland’s red meat industry can be found in the Scottish Red Meat Industry Profile, published by QMS each June.