29th October 2010

Initiative to encourage farmers to realise woodland potential

A new initiative to help Scottish livestock farmers fully realise the economic and environmental potential of their woodlands is being launched by Quality Meat Scotland and the Forestry Commission Scotland.

Seven new Livestock and Woodland Focus Farms have been selected in the Forestry Commission conservancy areas of Grampian, Argyll and Perthshire and South Scotland and each area will have a series of open days starting from next month.

A wide range of topics will be covered including integrated grazing and woodland and its shelter and fencing benefits, controlled grazing within woodland, timber and woodfuel production as well as landscaping and creating wildlife corridors.

The initiative, which is being facilitated by SAC, will also look at technical issues such as the potential animal health benefits of putting woodland barriers between neighbouring stock, assessing where shelter woods should be located to benefit livestock, as well as any other woodland or livestock farming topics raised by attendees.

Peter Beattie, Technical Projects manager for QMS, said: “This exciting collaboration between QMS and FCS will demonstrate how livestock and woodland management can be integrated on commercial farms to benefit farmers and foresters alike.

“Both organisations want to investigate how the economic benefits of woodland can be maximised while stock numbers are maintained on Scottish farms.

“The meetings will offer attendees the opportunity to view real-life examples of managed woodlands and discuss with the farmers and specialists the successes and challenges of combining forestry with stock keeping. The meetings will be of interest to farmers, foresters, advisors and rural policy staff.”

The launch meeting is being held on Tuesday 9 November at Bolfracks Estate, Aberfeldy, Perthshire courtesy of Athel Price. Mr Price is well known for his innovative approach to woodland management and the estate has won the “Scotland’s Finest Woods Award”.

Bolfracks’ farming enterprise has around 1,200 Scotch Mule x Texel ewes and 75 spring calving Saler cows, crossed with Limousin and Belgian Blue bulls. The 2500 acre organic estate, which includes a large area of forestry, has two staff members, and extends to 1500 feet above sea level.

Alaster Fraser, Bolfracks Farm Manager, said the estate’s proactive approach to woodland management was delivering a host of benefits. Birch, rowan and ash are the main three tree species which are being planted.

“As well as providing important shelter and amenity opportunities, careful management of woodland grazing means we can defer housing the cows by around a month, saving around £40/head on housing costs.

“By using woodchips from the trees our total bedding bill for our 75 cows costs just £250, the retail equivalent value of the woodchips we use for bedding. In a winter like we saw last year the woodland also offered crucial shelter to the ewes and the bird population on the farm has also noticeably rocketed which is very rewarding,” said Mr Fraser.

The farms so far selected for the project are in Grampian, Easter Bauds which is hosting the next meeting on Wednesday 17 November, Lhanbrdye, Elgin; Wellheads, Huntly; and Auchmacoy Estate, Ellon. The Perthshire and Argyll farms are: Bolfracks Estate, Aberfeldy; Ballathie and Baldarroch Farms, near Blairgowrie. The first South Scotland farm to be announced is the SAC’s Easter Howgate farm, Penicuik.

This is the first time Quality Meat Scotland and the Forestry Commission Scotland have collaborated on a project. This initiative comes as part of the livestock farming sector’s response to the Scottish Government’s Scottish Forestry Strategy.

Bob McIntosh, Director of Forestry Commission Scotland, said: "We are very keen to promote effective integration between farming and forestry, and are delighted to able to cooperate with QMS in exploring practical ideas for win-win solutions on livestock farms.”

Full details of the other farms and the meeting dates can now be found on the Monitor Farms website www.monitorfarms.co.uk

Sign up for the latest news and views