6th December 2011

Large attendance as new Cairngorms Monitor Farm hosts its first meeting

Caption: Lost Farm's three generations; Charles, Duncan and George Gordon

The first meeting of the new Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) Cairngorms Monitor Farm, on 30th November, drew a large attendance, totalling over 60 farmers and others involved in the agricultural industry.

The new Monitor Farmers are George Gordon, his wife Fiona and their son Charles. They farm four units, totalling 1,157 acres (468.23 has), around the village of Strathdon, 45 miles west of Aberdeen. The land ranges in altitude from just under 1,000 feet to a peak of 1,800 feet.

The home farm is “Lost”, which has been farmed by the Gordons for over 200 years  and is on a secure tenancy. Two of the other three units, Upperton and Little Tolly, total 242 acres (97.9 has), and are on short limited duration tenancies. The remaining unit of 298 acres (120.67 has) on Candacraig Estate, is on a seasonal grazing and cropping agreement.

There is a full Single Farm Payment on Lost Farm, but the remainder of the enterprise, which is just under 50% of the total land farmed, receives less than £5,000 in support payments.

After meeting up, the community group packed into 4 x 4 vehicles and set off on safari to view the Gordon’s farming enterprise, with information relayed via Walkie Talkie radios.

The 18 mile trip, blessed with dry and clear weather, took the convoy to the four steadings, revealing the geographic spread and the time-consuming logistics of the Gordon’s daily journey to feed and/or check stock.

The two main cattle ventures, both under-pinned by a high percentage of Simmental blood, include a breeding herd of 100 plus spring and autumn calving cows, of which approximately 25 go to Charolais bulls, with the remainder to Simmentals. Other than retained females, progeny are sold as yearlings.

In addition, 60 bulling heifers are purchased annually from Thainstone and Caithness marts, with care taken to ensure they do not pose a Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) risk. After calving to Limousin bulls, these heifers are sold with their two to three month old calves at foot. In the autumn, 40 averaged £2,066.00 per heifer and calf unit.

From 2012 onwards, the Gordons plan to tissue tag test every new-born calf for BVD.

In the 1,050 ewe closed flock, just 103 Scottish Blackfaces, put to Bluefaced Leicester tups, remain. The Blackies are being replaced by Lleyn crosses, “which produce and wean more and bigger lambs”, said Charles Gordon.

Overall, ewes tupped in 2010 scanned between 175 and 180%.

For this year’s tupping, the Lleyn cross ewes went to a range of tups:

Two Suffolk cross Texel, for store or prime lamb production;

Two North Country Cheviots, to breed females;

Six Texel; with the intention of retaining some females; the remainder being sold either as store or prime.

The 135 home-bred Scotch Mules went to Lleyn tups to breed females for retention.

The large majority of the work on the four units is done by George and Charles Gordon, with part-time help from Craibstone student Steven Eddie and another two assistants at lambing time.

After the enlightening farms tour, the community group identified what they viewed to be the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats relating to the Gordon’s farming business.

The many points raised will be discussed over the next three years at future Cairngorms Monitor Farm meetings with the next one scheduled to take place at the end of January 2012.

For further information please contact either of the Joint Facilitators:-

Alister Laing, Tel: 01343 548787. Email: alister.laing@sac.co.uk or David Ross, Tel: 01569 762305. Email: david.ross@sac.co.uk

For general information on Monitor Farms and detailed reports of meetings, visit www.qmscotland.co.uk/monitorfarms.

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