27th November 2015

Forres Farmer Re-opens Farm Gates to Share Business Improvements

A former monitor farm in Morayshire will be opening its gates again next month as part of a series of Monitor Farm Legacy events being run by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

Attendees will have the opportunity to hear an update from the Newlands family who are hosting the free event to Cluny Farm near Forres on 9 December.

This event is the fourth of five monitor farm legacy events organised by QMS at former monitor farms around Scotland in November and December.

Robbie Newlands was a monitor farmer from 2010 to 2013 and feels that his 436 ha mixed farm benefitted particularly from the suggestions and ideas put forward by some of the experienced livestock producers within the community group.

While the Newlands family did not make massive changes to their farming enterprise during their term as monitor farmers, they did tweak many aspects of their sheep and cattle production which delivered improvements to either gross margins, daily management or both.

The farm is stocked with 150 suckler cows plus 30 heifers and 700 North of England Mules and everything is finished on farm. The family grow about 70 ha of spring barley mostly for on-farm use and 10-12 ha of swedes for outwintering cows.

Mr Newlands said: "One of the changes I have made is to switch the cattle from dairy cross Belgian Blue cows to Simmental cross cows, which I can obtain much more easily from the local store rings."

The cows are all put to Charolais and Simmental bulls and calve in the spring. Bull calves are kept entire and finished at 14 to 15 months at 390 to 400kg on a home-grown barley ration, with heifers also finished on a barley ration and sold at 13 to 14 months at 315 to 320kg deadweight.

"Over the three years on the programme, we constantly reviewed the costs and benefits of this system against selling heifers store but at best the figures came out level,” said Mr Newlands.

“This was possibly because the finished price was on a rising plane during that period. I am still open to change, which is one of the benefits of the monitor farm experience."

One area where he has made changes is in his sheep flock. Following recommendations by the group he has changed from using Suffolk to Texel tups with good results.

Mr Newlands has always operated a rotational grazing system but his late, outdoor lambing means that he has traditionally struggled to sell lambs off grass.

"I lamb outside in mid to late April but by mid-July, just when the lambs are transferring from milk to grass, much of the goodness has gone out of the grass. This summer I have supplemented the ewes with some draff to boost milk production with some good results," he said.

QMS is hosting a series of monitor farm legacy events in November and December to highlight how their businesses have progressed since their time in the spotlight as monitor farms. The final event will be held at Fearn Farm in Tain on Thursday 17 December courtesy of The Scott Family

For further information about these events and to register your place at either event, visit www.qmscotland.co.uk/events  

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