A new target for calving interval is to be introduced within the Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme (SSBSS), mirroring a similar requirement to be included in a new NI suckler scheme, set to start from 2025.

From 2025, calves will only be eligible for a SSBSS payment if their dam has a calving interval of 410 days or less. The threshold may be lowered in future years, but it won’t be reduced by more than 10 days in any given year, states the Scottish government.

The change to SSBSS is designed to “encourage beef producers to undertake steps that will help to reduce the emissions’ intensity of their cattle production systems and make them more financially efficient.”

The mean calving interval of all suckler cows in Scotland is currently estimated at around 400 days, with 12% of animals having a figure of 430 days or more. There are no changes planned to the eligibility requirements around first calving heifers.

NI scheme

The suckler scheme planned for NI from 2025 potentially looks significantly more onerous for farmers. To be eligible, heifers must calve at under 34 months in year one, falling to under 29 months by the fourth year of the scheme.

Mature cows must have a calving interval of under 415 days in the first year, falling to under 385 days in year four.

It is also understood that some form of quota system will be introduced, based around the number of calves produced in previous years.


Meanwhile SSBSS payments for the 2023 scheme year started at the end of March 2024. Out of a total pot of £40m, the majority (£34m) is for beef-bred calves on the mainland, with £6m for claims from the Scottish islands.

Mainland beef calves are receiving £105.24 and Island calves £151.24 per head.