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Policy changes, disease (including foot-and-mouth disease) and economic pressures have led to a dramatic decline in both the number of beef cattle and beef cattle holdings over the last 25 years. These pressures will continue in the future and the challenge will be to maintain a stable herd for domestic food production and security, rural employment, and contribute to the overall Scottish economy.

The Scottish beef sector is currently responsible for more than a third of Scottish agricultural emissions and over half of this comes from breeding cows and heifers. But the beef sector can reduce emissions of up to 24 – 39% and thus contribute to Scotland’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030 and become net zero by 2045, without the need to compromise production. Beef cattle can also help combat the biodiversity crisis. To achieve this the industry needs to focus on technical improvements in breeding, feeding, and finishing while taking a holistic approach to system design to be more sustainable, environmentally friendly, and profitable.

The ‘Sustainable Beef Systems’ series provides the information and tools suckler beef herds need to develop an efficient, profitable, and resilient sector fit for the future.

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