Calving Intervals in Scotland’s Cattle Population: Conditionality Options An output to the Scottish Government as part of commissioned project on Economic Advice & Related Services to Support Development of a New Rural Support Scheme for Scotland (RESAS/005/21)
The Scottish Government is committed to developing a future framework of direct agricultural support payments with enhanced conditionality attached. Particular attention is being paid to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the beef herd. Calving Interval is a key efficiency metric for beef production, along with heifer calving age, mortality rates, age at slaughter and time to dispose of cows at the end of their breeding life. Longer calving intervals equate to longer periods during which a cow is incurring maintenance costs (e.g., feed, veterinary care) but also emitting greenhouse gases without contributing to actual beef production. Using Cattle Tracing System (CTS) data, calving intervals were estimated for all animals in the Scottish beef breeding herd over the period 2015-21. Comparative analysis of calving intervals is presented here in tabular, chart and map form, for different structural and geographical categories. Under current Scottish Suckler Beef Support Schemes the only conditions that farmers have to meet are that a calf has 75% beef genetics and is alive in the business for 30 days from birth. Extending these to include calving interval offers an opportunity to introduce meaningful conditionality, and would help to deliver 50% of support having enhanced conditionality by 2025. Given variation in current calving intervals, choice of appropriate performance intervals will need careful consideration – not least in the context of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2019.