A Dumfries and Galloway farm was today (Wednesday 15th November) named as the winner of the 2017 AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year award run by AgriScot and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and sponsored by Thorntons Solicitors.
Castle Sinniness near Glenluce, run by the Fleming family, was announced as the overall winner during a presentation in the main ring at AgriScot.
The farm is one of three, extending to a total of 240 hectares, run in partnership by Robert Fleming with his father John and mother Rachael. The family run a low-input grass and forage-based system which supports the main herd of 220 Aberdeen-Angus and Angus cross suckler cows and followers.
The award judges were impressed with the Fleming family’s grasp of costs, margins and the targets needed to make a profit. They also focus on using grazing techniques to maximise profits from grass, including a novel approach to finishing cattle on an intensive grazing platform using the latest fencing technology.
The family has established a successful paddock grazing system which has boosted grassland productivity and allowed them to support a further 250 – 600 grazing cattle managed on a contract basis. They also have a flock of 65 Roussin sheep and winter a further 250 hoggs.
The aim of the AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year Award is to showcase excellence in the production of cattle in Scotland and raise the profile of the dedication and stock management skills behind the production of Scotch Beef PGI.
The other two finalists were: Birks Farm, near Carluke, run by Douglas and James Frame and Pitgaveny Farm near Elgin, owned by Rebecca Russell and her brother Crinan Dunbar and managed by Martin Birse with head stockman Geoff Anderson
Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, extended his congratulations to the Fleming family.
He said: “I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to the Fleming family on being named 2017 Scotch Beef Farm of the Year. They are excellent ambassadors for our Scottish beef sector and I wish them further success moving forward.”
The judging panel for the award consisted of Robert Neill, AgriScot board member, Doug Bell, Head of Industry Development at QMS, and Robert Parker, winner of AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year 2016.
“The three finalist farms were very different but shared a determination to keep improving the performance of their herds and continuously seek out opportunities to grow their businesses,” said Robert Neill, AgriScot board member and one of the award judges.
Douglas Bell, Head of Industry Development at QMS and one of the award judges, added: “It was a real pleasure to visit all three farms and to meet farmers who are focused on making the very best of the resources they have.
“As well as a real passion for the jobs they do, they share a willingness to open their minds to new ideas and technology to constantly seek out better ways of running their businesses.”
“We are incredibly chuffed to have won,” said Robert Fleming who farms with his wife Claire and parents John and Rachael, with support from part-time member of staff Frazer Mitchell.
“The award is great recognition of what we are doing but there is always scope for further improvements and we’ll continue to focus on increasing our output by making the best use of our forage.”
As winners, the Flemings received a £500 cheque as well as a £250 voucher to celebrate their success at a Scotch Beef Club restaurant. The members of the club, run by QMS, are committed to serving top quality Scotch Beef PGI.
During the farm visits the judges looked to gauge the passion and enthusiasm of the farmer, and family and staff where relevant, to efficiently produce high quality animals.
They also looked for evidence of a high standard of technical and financial performance, and how the finalists adopted new ideas to improve the efficiency and profitability of their farms. Finalists were also asked to demonstrate their commitment to animal health and welfare as well as their ability to keep an eye on the market for the end product.
Kenneth Mackay, partner in the Land and Rural Business team Thorntons Solicitors, said: “The AgriScot Awards are a firm favourite on the agricultural calendar and a great platform for farms to showcase innovative and new ways of operating. We’re always very impressed by the development of techniques that the farmers demonstrate each year.”
He added: “We’re proud sponsors of the Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year and Scotch Beef Farmer of the Year categories for 2017. Congratulations to the worthy winners of this year’s awards.”
All farms producing cattle destined to be used for meat sold under the Scotch Beef label – from breeders through to finishers - were eligible to apply for the award and required to be members of QMS’s quality assurance scheme.