McLaren stated that the industry had experienced real problems, due to both extreme weather, with heavy snowfalls during lambing, and liver fluke.
"Figures from the National Fallen Stock Company reveal an initial assessment of sheep losses for January 2013 to the end of March 2013, which is almost 22% up on the previous year. These figures will not include the majority of losses from the most badly hit regions, as snow would still have been covering animals," McLaren said.
He described the situation as "heartbreaking" for hard-working farmers, but urged producers to think of the future, which looks positive.
Speaking at a media briefing regarding QMS activities this year, McLaren claimed the horsemeat scandal had contributed to the focus on quality assurance.
He said: "Beef producers are currently receiving record prices, consumer trust in the Scotch brand has been reinforced and there are exciting opportunities for labels with such strong premium credentials on the global export scene."
QMS chief executive ’Uel Morton said the organisation was due to "deliver strongly on behalf of levy-payers" and claimed that, for the first time ever, grant income sourced by the organisation had topped £1m during the previous year.
However, Morton said that, due to falling livestock numbers and sheep and pigs being slaughtered on the border, income from levy was being "eroded".