Using the support schemes, beef and sheep farmers can now apply for a share of £38 million.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead has encouraged farmers to apply for their share of a fund to support beef and upland sheep.

This is the first year of the new schemes. The support for beef producers replaces the old Scottish Beef Scheme and will reward farmers for calves born on or after December 2 2014. The support for farmers with sheep is new and will provide support to help maintain flocks in some of the most challenging agricultural land in Scotland. Payment under both schemes are due in 2016.

Mr Lochhead said: “Succulent Scotch Beef and Lamb are prime products that are in demand all over the world. Scotch Beef was voted the nation’s favourite food and drink product last year. Following a challenging summer for farmers, these two new schemes will provide a welcome support for a vital part of the farming industry.

“This is the first time we have offered a specific support scheme to the islands to recognise the fact they have more adverse farming conditions due to poorer quality land and smaller markets which means they are more dependent on distant markets. Farming and crofting communities are vitally important and I hope the Upland Sheep Support scheme will help maintain employment, particularly during harsher times.

“I would urge farmers to make sure applications for these new schemes, which are worth around £38.8 million in total, are submitted in plenty of time ahead of the relative deadlines and make the most of the money available to them.”

The Scottish beef sector accounted for 22 per cent of Scottish agricultural output over the last 10 years, with beef production being the largest agricultural sector in Scotland. The sector has 11,400 employees on beef cattle holdings, and meat from beef suckler herds is highly valued due to its high marbling factor.

Sheep farming is a key agricultural use of rough grazing, with 8800 employed on specialist sheep holdings in Scotland. In 2011, specialist sheep businesses in the LFA (Less Favoured Areas) accounted for 20 per cent of Scotland’s SFP recipients and 6 per of total direct payments.

The Scottish Upland Sheep Support scheme is one of the Scottish Government’s decisions as part of the new CAP arrangement from 2015. It is part of a package of measures designed to reward activity and eliminate as far as possible the so-called “slipper farmers”.

In order to be eligible for the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme a sheep producer must have homebred ewe hogs, no more than 200 ha of payment region 1 land, and 80 per cent of their holding must consist of land in payment region 3. Payment will be restricted to one ewe hog for every four hectares. The scheme is targeted at sheep production on the poorest quality land; other sheep producers are not eligible for this scheme, but will receive higher payments under the Basic and Greening Payments schemes.

• Applications can be made online at www.ruralpayments.org

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