Highlands & Islands

Geese control not fit for purpose. NFU Scotland says

Barnacle geese
Image caption NFU Scotland said farmers had played a part in conserving threatened species such as barnacle geese

Methods of controlling geese to protect grazing land are no longer "fit for purpose", according to NFU Scotland.

The farming organisation said numbers of greylag had increased to levels that could no longer be managed by current schemes.

Geese have been blamed for damaging grass and crops. Crofters on the Western Isles have called for culls.

NFUS has raised the issue as farmers gather for the Black Isle agricultural show near Inverness.

Scottish Natural Heritage, which is involved in controlling geese, said it was already attempting to bring about change.

A pilot scheme is being put together which would include controlled shooting of geese at locally agreed levels.

'Threatening business'

The union has published a letter from its president Nigel Miller to Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson.

Mr Miller wrote: "Geese in their thousands are devastating grassland in our most fragile farming areas, threatening farm businesses and livestock numbers as the land becomes ungrazeable.

"Previously, local goose management schemes met the costs of impaired production, as well as ensuring that conservation objectives and international obligations, such as the EU Birds Directive were met.

"Funding to these schemes has been cut, however, and now that the bird populations are high and farm input costs, in particular energy and fertiliser, have rocketed, the schemes do not make up sufficiently for farm business losses incurred."

Mr Miller said farmers and crofters had, at the same time, played important roles in the conservation of threatened species such as barnacle.

Scare geese

Greylag numbers on the Western Isles have been a long-running issue for crofters.

Last year, their calls for some geese to be shot were supported by the islands' MSP.

Under the Uist Goose Management Scheme, fireworks, kites and special fencing are provided to frighten geese away from pastures and arable crops.

People are also employed to scare geese from August through to October.

But SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said last September that a lot more could be done "by way of shooting to solve the problem".

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