20th August 2013

Dumfries Monitor Farmers Highlight Importance of Knowing Baseline Herd Performance Information

Over 130 farmers and other industry representatives attended the recent Dumfries monitor farm open evening and BBQ hosted by the Paterson family at Hartbush, Amisfield.

The meeting provided an opportunity for all to find out about subjects covered to date while also taking in the farm and livestock during a trailer tour hosted by members of the management steering group.

Supporting this was a display of posters covering the farms enterprise margins and a stock judging challenge with seven classes of sheep and cattle run by the Nithsdale Young Farmers.

Dumfries is the first of the Scotland-wide monitor farm programme, co-ordinated by Quality Meat Scotland, to focus primarily on beef finishing. Also, in another first, two processing companies, Highland Meats and A K Stoddart, play an important part in the monitor farm programme. Hartbush is a 600 acre farm with a 260-strong herd of sucklers, consisting mainly of Limousin or Simmental-cross-Limousin cows.

Standing in a recently reseeded field above the farm steading John Paterson talked about his experience to date of the project and actions already undertaken.

“We have always strived to make improvements on the farm by looking at information on performance.

“However being a monitor farm has really put a focus on the fact that if you don’t know the farm’s baseline information you can’t start to make changes if required. We are now undertaking a number of on-going assessments across the farm supported by our facilitators Matthew Currie & James Worthington of Smiths Gore.”

To help with on-going recording of herd performance the Patersons have recently invested in EID tags to all the cows and this season’s calves, as well as upgrading their weighing systems.

This is key to the delivery of an on-going project involving the students of the local SRUC Barony Campus who are monitoring the physical performance of the finishing bulls through the life of the project.

Mr. Paterson highlighted the importance of the soils and grassland to the farm. “If you look after the grass on the farm, the livestock enterprises will look after themselves. At the start of the project we carried out soil analysis looking at N, P and K as well as micronutrients.  More importantly, having identified a weakness then I believe you should take action to address it and we have added over 450 tonnes of lime across the farm this spring at a rate of two tonnes per acre.

“The immediate activity may not be pretty but the lime is working 365 days of the year whereas a new piece of machinery does a few days work every so often and goes back in the shed.”

John and Amanda Paterson have been conscious that as a result of difficult weather over several years their normal cycle of reseeding has fallen by the wayside.

Therefore they have planned to spend more time focusing on grassland rejuvenation. Those on the farm tour were impressed with the field swards with a good base of white clover but challenged John to show the benefits of his reseeding policy.

John commented: “As we have shed space and the bulls are performing well we have decided to keep more calves entire this year to finish as bulls rather than run steers on grass and maintain an option to sell as stores.

“This will allow us to take 15-20 acres a year out of the system to allow reseeding and ensure an on-going cycle of rejuvenation.

“By addressing the soil requirements and reseeding as part of a regular plan we can build efficiency into the farm by ensuring better performance of livestock from grass and more effective use of fertiliser.”

The next meeting of the Dumfries monitor farm will be held on 10th October and will focus on the fluke control strategies & winter rationing.

For general information on monitor farms, plus detailed reports of meetings visit www.qmscotland.co.uk/monitorfarms

Caption: John Paterson addressing attendees during the trailer tour.

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