Grass management, succession and livestock health were all up for discussion at the first meeting of the Angus Monitor Farm, which was attended by over 100 local farmers.
The farm was recently selected as one of nine monitor farms which have been established in Scotland as part of a joint initiative run by Quality Meat Scotland and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds with funding from the Scottish Government.
The Stodart family, who are hosting the project at their Mill of Inverarity farm, took the visitors on a tour of the main enterprises which include suckler cows, breeding ewes, bought in store lambs and finishing cattle. They also have a 200 hectare arable enterprise growing winter wheat, winter barley, winter oilseed rape and spring barley.
At this first meeting there were a range of issues discussed but one in particular cropped up again and again; grass management.
Rory Stodart, the family’s eldest son who has just returned to work full time on the farm, explained:
“Whether we are talking about sheep, cattle or cereals, grass always comes up in the discussion; and making best use of it is something we hope to look at throughout the project.
“For example, last year we tried under sowing our spring barley with grass to increase our winter grazing and fulfil our greening obligations. However, our barley yields were negatively affected due to the increased competition. This year we’d like to try again, but sowing the grass a little later so the barley has a better chance to establish.”
The family also tend to turn over poorly performing arable fields to grass for a few years to improve soil fertility and they are keen to increase rotational grazing so they can keep more livestock on farm and reduce their reliance on rented land. Ensuring good quality grazing could be an issue going forward as last year they increased their ewe numbers from 200 to over 400.
Other areas they are likely to focus on include cattle health and breeding, increasing arable yields, soil structure and nutrition and succession planning, however local farmers will be closely involved in setting the agenda over the course of the three year project. The community group will be able to suggest topics and speakers relevant to the local area and contribute practical ideas for improving farm efficiency.
Alison Stodart said: “We’re really looking forward to being a part of the Monitor Farm programme. Everyone in our local community has been so supportive and enthusiastic and I think we just need to harness that enthusiasm to drive the project forward.”
For more information about the monitor farm programme visit cereals.ahdb.org.uk or www.qmscotland.co.uk.