23rd August 2012

Caithness Monitor Farm to Host Open Day

A successful host farm from the Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) monitor farm programme is staging an open day on Saturday 25 August.

Westfield Farm in Caithness is nearing the end of its involvement in the scheme, which aims to help develop new initiatives and allow farmers to share best practice.

Over the past two-and-a-half years, the livestock holding, west of Thurso, has been the focus of regular demonstrations and presentations targeted at improving farm efficiency and profitability.

Subsequent changes in farm practices have started to pay dividends for farmer Johnnie MacKenzie (pictured). These have included the introduction of a new feed regime and bulling season which has for the first time enabled all calves to be sold in the spring saving on summer grazing rental.

Regular meetings of members of the local agricultural community facilitated by SAC personnel have attracted turn-outs of over 50 as others seek to benefit from new ideas and suggestions.

Fellow farmers and members of the public are invited to come along to Saturday’s open day where they will get a guided tour of the 220-hectare farm, which is just off the inland road between Thurso and Reay.

The 15-20 minute tours on a trailer towed by a tractor will take in inspections of the Continental cows and North Country Cheviot flock as well as the farm crops, which include a field of forage rape, and several parks which are included in an environmental scheme. The visitors will then be taken inside the steading to tour round the impressive cattle-handling and housing facilities at Westfield.

Thurso vet, Sinclair Manson is also hosting a veterinary workshop where he will focus on common foot problems suffered by lambs and calves.

Members of the public will be invited to take part in a stock-judging competition, which will be divided into two classes of cattle and four classes of sheep. Other activities include a slurry-spreading demonstration.

Youngsters are not forgotten - they will be able to try their hand at ‘milking’ a life-size model cow, making their own butter and crushing barley. The latter attractions are being organised by the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET).

Caithness Young Farmers will also run a treasure hunt involving participants having to track down various farm animals.

The day finishes with an auction, proceeds of which, along with entry fees for the stock-judging competition, will go to MacMillan Cancer Support.

Thurso-based SAC facilitator Willie Budge said: “We’ve tried to organise a programme which appeals to both farmers and the general public and we’ve got quite a few things for youngsters.

“If it’s a half-decent day weather-wise, we’re hoping we’ll get a good turn-out.”

Mr Budge said Westfield, which is nearing the end of its three year stint as a monitor farm, has proved a successful subject.

He said: “All the monitor farm meetings have been very well attended and some really good practical ideas have been put into practice.

“The feedback I’m getting is that the farmers have enjoyed it and have picked up great ideas which have helped their businesses while Johnnie has also got a lot out of it.”

The open day starts at 12.30pm and the full address is: Westfield Farm, Thurso, Caithness, KW14 7QN.

For further information on monitor farms and detailed reports of meetings visit www.qmscotland.co.uk/monitorfarms

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