Scottish Beef Finishing – Evidence from 2013 born animals

SG Thomson, M Spencer, A Reeves

Research output: Book/Report/Policy Brief/Technical BriefResearch report

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Using Cattle Tracing System data with Business Reference Number look-up tables it has been possible to classify all businesses in the beef supply chain using the predominant beef system in use on a business. The system typologies are based on those used by Quality Meat Scotland with amended classifications for specialist finishers – those that predominately finish cattle earlier or later than the median slaughter age.
We estimate that there were 10,792 producers involved in the supply chain for beef and dairy calves born in 2013 that were destined for slaughter. There were 558,077calves registered in Scotland in 2013 and 398,573 (72%) were attributed to the beef herd. 349,871 of the calves were slaughtered within 36 months of registration. 71% of the suckler calves registered in 2013 were slaughtered (mostly in Scotland) by 36 months of age compared to 44% of dairy calves.
It was estimated that there were 2,052 finishers– but that is inflated by a number of very small producers that sell the odd animal for slaughter. Indeed only 203 finishers accounted for over 148,000 prime animals born in 2013 whilst 40% of the classified “finishers” only accounted for 19,300 head.
There is very wide variation in finishing ages of cattle, that depends on the breed as well as the rearing and finishing systems the animal went through. Whilst the breed variation is apparent there are also considerable opportunity to improve efficiency in the sector.
As the beef finishing sector (and rearing sector to a lesser extent) is heavily concentrated on relatively few, large scale, businesses some policy outcomes can likely be achieved more quickly by focusing attention on the largest businesses.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherScotland's Rural College (SRUC)
Number of pages12
Publication statusPrint publication - Feb 2020


  • Suckler beef
  • beef systems
  • finishers
  • calving
  • finishing profile
  • slaughter age


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