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Agriculture and Crofting

Agriculture and Crofting

Crofting is the predominant form of land use in the Western Isles and is the foundation of the way of life, the language and the culture. About 77% of the land area is held in crofting tenure and is therefore subject to crofting legislation. There are some 6,000 crofts distributed among 280 townships. Of these, 94% provide less than 2 days work per week for their occupiers and typically average 3 hectares in size.

The quality of land and sizes of crofts and grazings vary considerably throughout the area but generally, the smallest crofts are to be found on the poorest land and most of the large full-time crofts are in Uist.

Crofting and the plurality of occupation associated with it is increasingly recognised as a model for rural development. However, crofting still faces many problems, notably, the age structure of the crofting population.

Raising store lambs is the most important crofting product in the Western Isles. These lambs are fattened for slaughter elsewhere in the UK or in Europe. The rearing of calves as store or as hardy breeding stock is also carried out, mainly in the Uists and Barra, although the number of cattle is only a fraction of what they were at the turn of the century.

Despite the changes that have affected crofting agriculture, something, which has remained unchanged, is the traditional extensive methods of farming. The crofting system is still a very low input system with little added in the form of chemicals. Traditional use of seaweed and dung fertiliser is still widespread in the Uists and Barra.

As a form of land use, crofting has been extremely successful in maintaining rural populations in areas where they would otherwise certainly have disappeared.

For more information refer to the Scottish Crofting Foundation or the Crofters Commission sites.

By Island Summary 2002-2007
(Western Isles Crofters Commission office 2007)

Area

 

2002

2003

2004

2005

2007

Lewis

Total number of crofts registered  with the Crofters Commission

3614

3613

3613

3614

3608

 

Total number of cattle

1152

1198

1230

1290

 

 

Total number of sheep

138817

132554

123679

106860

 

 

No. of owner occupied crofts

-

-

-

-

29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harris

Total number of crofts registered

with the Crofters Commission

561

561

561

563

561

 

Total number of cattle

361

281

286

289

 

 

Total number of sheep

47626

45781

41731

39862

 

 

No. of owner occupied crofts

-

-

-

-

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North & South Uist

Total number of crofts registered

 with the Crofters Commission

1405

1405

1405

1406

1410

 

Total number of cattle

4361

4130

4159

4272

 

 

Total number of sheep

71268

64401

61548

60640

 

 

No. of owner occupied crofts

-

-

-

-

42

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barra

Total number of crofts registered

 with the Crofters Commission

444

444

444

444

443

 

Total number of cattle

630

654

631

713

 

 

Total number of sheep

11476

11217

10386

10209

 

 

No. of owner occupied crofts

-

-

-

-

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Western Isles Totals

Total number of crofts registered

 with the Crofters Commission

6024

6023

6023

6027

6022

 

Total number of cattle

6504

6263

6306

6564

-

 

Total number of sheep

269187

253953

237344

217571

-

 

No. of owner occupied crofts

-

-

-

-

89