Contenders for this year’s AgriScot Farm of the Year awards range from the most northern point of Scotland in Shetland to the south in Dumfries and Galloway.
After months of deliberation, 15 finalists have been chosen across the Dairy, Arable, Sheep, Beef and Diversification categories, with three contenders from each award receiving an invite to AgriScot on the 16th of November, where the winners will be announced.
To build excitement ahead of the day itself, the finalists were revealed online during a brand-new awards ceremony, hosted by the Scottish Farmer’s Ken Fletcher and AgriScot ‘s chairman Robert Neill.
The AgriScot Dairy Farm of the Year award for 2022 has thrown up two finalists from Dumfries and Galloway in the form of Allan Campbell of Cally Mains Farming Ltd and Willie Fleming of Hillhead Farm, and a third contender from Peeblesshire in Colin Laird of Blyth Farm. The award, which is sponsored by Cow Alert, was last year won by Alistair Logan of Holehouse Farm.
Two Berwickshire-based farmers are in the running for AgriScot’s Arable Farm of the Year award in the form of Colin McGregor of McGregor Farms and Neil White of Greenknowe Farm, with Stuart McNicol of Castleton Farm in North Berwick making up the final three. The award is sponsored by SoilEssentials and supported by AHDB, and the current title is held by last year’s winner Bill Gray of Preston Hall farm.
The AgriScot Scottish Sheep and Beef Farm of the Year awards, sponsored by Thorntons Law LLP and supported by QMS, have delivered the furthest spread of contenders, with Aimee and Kirsty Budge of Bigton Farm on Shetland in the running for the Sheep category, joined in the final three by Calum McDiarmid of Mains of Murthly in Aberfeldy and completing the stretch south, Alan Cowen’s of Philiphaugh Farm in the Scottish Borders. Last year’s winner was Saughland Farm, run by previous farm manager Perter Eccles and flock manager Owen Gray.
In the running for AgriScot Beef Farm of the Year for 2022 are Harry Brown of Auchmaliddie Mains in Aberdeenshire, David and Ian Richardson from Upper Samieston Farm in Jedburgh and South-Ayrshire based farmer, James Young at Girvan Mains. The current title is held by Lamont and Daniel Hair of Drumbreddan Farm in Stranraer.
Completing the announcement of finalists are the three contenders for the AgriScot Diversified Farm of the Year 2022 award, which in its inaugural year in 2021, was won by Louise and Graeme Nicoll of Newton Farm Holidays. The award, which is sponsored by SAC Consulting, will be contested between Lucy and Robert Wilson of Wilson’s Farm Kitchen in the Scottish Borders, The Pollock Family of Ardross Farm in Fife and Ross Neilson of What’s Fresh, in East Kilbride.
Finalists are still to be announced for the Business Skills Competition after entries closed on Friday, October 7th. The award, which was open to 18- to 25-year-olds and is sponsored by NFU Mutual and supported by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), assesses individuals’ general business skills and awareness of agri-business issues, with the winner receiving a £1000 cash prize to help them in the future.
Entries are still open for AgriScot’s silage competition and farmers have until Monday the 17th of October to submit their silage analysis to sponsors and organisers Watson’s Seeds, by email to email@example.com.
All the winners of the above competitions will be announced during AgriScot on Wednesday, November 16. For further information on any of the awards or to register for your free ticket to attend AgriScot, please visit www.agriscot.co.uk.
AgriScot finalist’s previews
Aimee and Kirsty Budge , Bigton Farm
Sisters Aimee and Kirsty Budge of Bigton Farm in Shetland, together run a mixed sheep and beef enterprise, alongside growing 60 acres of spring barley. They look after a 650-head flock which comprises of 300 Shetland cross Cheviot ewes which they put to a Suffolk ram to provide lambs for store and the fat market, and 350 pure Shetland ewes, which are put to either a Shetland or Cheviot ram and their offspring are kept for replacements.
The Budge’s have been working closely with their vet to develop a better health planning system for the farm and have a strict buying policy to complement Shetland’s high health status, with all incoming stock tested for CLA, dosed and dipped. No breeding females are purchased outside of Shetland and by being more selective in their replacements has allowed them to cull hard on less desirable traits, such as bad feet.
Calum McDiarmid, Mains of Murthly
The philosophy of Calum McDiarmid’s sheep enterprise at Mains of Murthly, Aberfeldy, which extends to over 244ha of Perthshire landscape, is about minimising input and maximising output by creating a more efficient system. Shepherd Ed Munt runs 1350 breeding ewes, 400 home bred ewe lambs and 25 tups, 12 of which are Innovis Aberfield and 13 terminals of either NZ Suffolk or Aberblacks.
The whole system has changed over the past five years to become a predominantly grass based setup centred around rotational grazing, with divisional solar electric fence systems and Opico sward lifter improving the quality and volume of grass.
All ewes are condition scored every six weeks to both correct any problems, and to ensure all stock are improving and performing. When it comes to health, prevention is better than cure.
All lambs have traditionally been sold prime to the abattoir with the average weight being mid 19 kgs with normally U3L grade. To grant ewes more grass in the ‘Golden period’, half of this year’s lambs will be sold store, with the remainder fattened on home turf. With the increase in costs of both energy and inputs, Mains of Murthly is looking at the best return for both staff and the farm. Reducing the winter costs is the aim of the farm.
Using a stick reader and electronic weighing crate allows them to record daily live weight gain and has enabled them to sell prime lambs at their optimum to allow for a much better return.
Alan Cowens – Philiphaugh Farm
Philiphaugh Farm is a 2450 acre upland farm near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, owned by Sir Michael Strang Steel and managed by Alan Cowens. It runs 2200 mainly North Country Cheviot ewes split into two flocks, shepherded by Alan Wilson and Scott Bell, and 120 Luing and Sim/Luing cows.
1000 hill type ewes are bred pure for replacements, sale ewe lambs, and wethers finished off forage crops. 500 hill type are crossed with the Blue Faced Leicester for the production of Cheviot Mule ewe lambs for replacements and sale. Wethers are finished on forage crops. These ewes are run as low input receiving no hard feed or silage over the winter and only receive feed blocks in the run up to lambing.
These ewes are all lambed outside in mid-April with the emphasis on a low-cost system. The NCC is the chosen breed for its hardiness, mothering abilities and quality of lamb they produce which sell at a premium. The flock is closed except the purchase of an odd stock tup.
Harry Brown, Auchmaliddie Mains
Harry Brown of Auchmaliddie Mains, Aberdeenshire, runs a herd of 200 predominantly Limousin-cross sucker cows and buys in 200 store cattle per annum to finish, fattening all animals on the 750-acre farm, with an additional 200 acres of seasonal lets. Of the 400 cattle finished per year, around 30 home bred heifers are sold direct to the customer via farmers’ markets or doorstep deliveries, as Harry and his family work to foster local relationships, and share their story of how the meat is produced.
The cattle complement the crop enterprise and keep the farm on a healthy rotation. And with a focus on sustainability, the family have constructed a new outdoor silage pit to cut down on plastic use and increase indoor capacity for bedding pens. Carbon audits, soil analytics and GPS technology have also been key to assessing the wider impact of the farm enterprise.
One of the steps the farm has taken to improve the system was by introducing the Ritchie Weigh Monitor, with cattle being weighed daily. Underperformers are quickly identified and removed from the herd, saving money on feed, and allowing only the highest quality animal to enter the food chain. Traceability is key, with digital software accelerating the monitoring process and translating as increased efficiencies. And, collaborating with their farm nutritionist and vet on a regular basis, Harry ensures that his animals are always in peak condition.
David and Ian Richardson, Upper Samieston Farm
Father and son team, David and Ian Richardson of Upper Samieston Farm in Jedburgh, run a mixed beef and sheep enterprise comprising of 500 Texel cross ewes and 500 suckler cows, with calves sold as stores.
They run a tight 10-week calving block in the spring to ensure level batches for the store ring and this year calved 300 cows in the first four weeks. They run a relatively closed herd, breeding their own replacement females and some bulls, but the majority of calves are sold at six to seven months.
They have been selling stores at the top of the market with last year’s calves averaging £915 for bullocks and £880 for heifers. In order to optimise growing rates, mineral analysis is carried out on silage and summer grazing to help create a bespoke mineral management plan.
Improving animal welfare is key and the farm is part of the SAC Premium Cattle Health Scheme. All calves are pneumonia tested and plans are in place to remove the straw blower this winter in an attempt to cut down on respiratory problems.
James Young, Girvan Mains Farm
South Ayrshire-based James Young farms at Girvan Mains, with a 450-strong herd of beef cows and an additional 2000 –2500 stores. Angus, Saler and Limousin cows are run by Charolais bulls, with Angus and Salers put on heifers and first calvers. The system focuses on productivity, getting top quality beef-bred calves to finished weight as quickly as possible.
Investing in an anaerobic digester in 2016, and a ground source heat pump in 2019 for drying crop, primarily grass, which is then used in the enterprise’s TMR, further investing in a weight head and hydraulic cattle crushes has made it simpler and safer to work with larger numbers, as well as making it easy for the data collection, with poor performers identified and culled out. This has made his operation more efficient smf has allowed James to increase his finishing capacity by up to 400.
To maximise herd health, James works very closely with his veterinary team, and has developed a vaccine specifically for his holdings as a way to reduce losses. Nutrition is central to the rearing process, but James maintains that correctly breeding animals in the first instance makes it easier to meet final market specifications.