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Caithness And Sutherland


Caithness And Sutherland
September 2002
Highland & Islands Enterprise and Highland Council Report on
Red Meat Processing & Marketing in the Highlands & Islands - May 2002 and printed Sep 2002

Local Red Meat Supply & Demand
Enterprise Area Caithness & Sutherland H&IE Total  
Local 38,810 370,376
Tourist (equivalents)  4,238 52,336
Total 43,048 422,712
Livestock Holdings    
Cattle only 189 1,891
Sheep only 734 6,655
Mixed  585 2,983
Total Holdings 1,508 11,529
Supply & Demand    
Beef Supply .. Head (1-2 yrs) 10,388 53,978
Local demand .. Head  2,224 21,840
Demand as % of Supply  21.4% 40.5%
Lamb Supply .. Head 218,078 1,225,252
Local demand .. Head 9,363 91,940
Demand as % of Supply  4.3%  7.5%

In both these counties, but especially Caithness, there is significant grass and thus the ability to finish proportionately more animals.  In addition, this is one of the areas of H&I that is reasonably supplied by abattoirs.

There is a small local facility at Wick (operating under derogation) that kills mainly cattle (up to 20 per week) and some sheep (12-15 per week).  This meat goes mainly to supply local Caithness butchers and caterers. It thus operates rather like some of the island abattoirs in making a small local area self-sufficient.

A major advance for the area is the reopening of Dornoch’s abattoir by ANM. It is their intention initially to kill mainly lamb and a few cull pigs, but they are extremely flexible in what they may do – providing it is profitable. This must be good news for the area – and further afield. This area used to provide a significant number of ‘light lamb’ at a weight of 16-20 kilos liveweight, which was conveniently right for many local farmers. It is to be hoped that this export market might re-emerge.

The breed of sheep has been improved in some parts – HISS were active here and more work has been done locally with a feed company.  There have been some good local initiatives selling lamb direct to companies outside H&I and others for beef. Discussions with local leaders indicate that producer groups might easily be formed and it is to be hoped that the opening of Dornoch might trigger such organisation of local leading edge producers.

Dingwall has also been a killing resource for this area, despite it being out of the immediate area. However, several producers found difficulty in producing the bigger lambs wanted there (for its retail trade) on their land.

Another favourable factor for this area is the fact that it has a fairly high penetration of Farm Assurance. It is thus, across a variety of factors, better prepared for new initiatives than most areas studied here. In fact, one of the best initiatives uncovered is that for North Highland Fine Lambs who raise lambs in Sutherland, finish them on the Black Isle, slaughter at Dingwall, then market to private households and restaurants around Britain.

The above is taken from 
Highland & Islands Enterprise and Highland Council Report on
Red Meat Processing & Marketing in the Highlands & Islands - May 2002 and printed Sep 2002
The full report in pdf is available on the Highland Council Web site
Click Here to go to the full report