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Dairy Cattle

The Scottish dairy industry is extremely diverse, ranging from extensively grazed low yielding cows yielding around 5,000 litres per lactation, to very intensive, high input-high output herds housed all year round and producing over 12,000 litres per lactation. Whilst the majority of herds are all-year round calving, with a small percentage either a spring block, autumn block or both, milk production shows seasonality, with production increasing in the spring, peaking in May and reducing in the Autumn.

There are just under 880 dairy herds in Scotland, most of which are concentrated in the South West. The number of dairy cows in the country is 178,490, with an average herd size of 203, as reported by the Scottish Dairy Cattle Association in January 2020.

The Scottish dairy industry produces about 1.5 billion litres of milk a year of which roughly 40% supplies the liquid milk market and 40% is processed into cheese, with the remainder going into other dairy value-added products (butter, yogurt, cream and ice-cream).

The most popular breed of dairy cow is Holstein-Friesian but more and more herds are turning to other breeds to help improve the butterfat and protein content of the milk, which is more desirable for milk buyers that are processing milk into dairy products. Other popular breeds in Scotland are the Friesian, Ayrshire, Shorthorn, Jersey, Scandinavian breeds and the Fleckvieh.

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