29th June 2015

New Orkney Monitor Farm Video Highlights Business Benefit

The substantial improvements to margin which can be collectively achieved by making small changes to a farm business are highlighted in an Orkney monitor farm video launched by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) this month.

The Millburn monitor farm was established by NFU Scotland, with support from QMS and funding with Scottish Government, and recently completed a very successful three year term, attracting large attendances to meetings.

Steven Sandison farms in partnership with his wife Lorraine at Millburn which extends to 230acres while a further 100 acres is taken on a seasonal let basis.

The farm is mostly down to permanent and temporary grass with about 20 acres of rough grazing and 30 acres of barley, some of which is kept for feeding cows, with the majority sold. Stocking consists of 100 Simmental cross and Salers cross cows with Salers and Simmental bulls being used, giving easier calving than the Charolais and a premium for the heifer calves.

The changes introduced on the farm have resulted in at least ten more tonnes of liveweight being produced than previously. Mr Sandison said: "I have learned such a lot and many small changes to the system have added up to a big change in profit."

One of the key health issues which was identified at Millburn in the early stages was a cobalt deficiency in the cattle due to low levels of the mineral in the soil. He now boluses the cattle and has seen health benefits which include better liveweight gains.

Improvements to the grassland management at Millburn has also resulted in significant benefits, with the Sandisons no longer creep feeding  calves, following a trial which revealed the calf weight benefits of improving health and grass far outweighed the benefits of creep feeding.

Another measure Mr Sandison has taken to improve some of the wetter areas of grassland on the farm is to introduce sheep. He has a grazing agreement with a neighbour and has found sheep have been the answer to a previous weed, particularly ragwort, problem.

It is especially important to Mr Sandison and his wife Lorraine that they make careful decisions on the farm as they have only been farming in their own right since 2003 and do not have their full quota of Single Farm Payment. For them maximising output from the farm is critical to its sustainability and their livelihood.

Johnny Mackey, Head of Industry Development with QMS, said: “This short new video will not only showcases the benefits delivered by the monitor farm project but also highlights how effective a number of small changes can be in collectively delivering a major boost to profitability.”

The video is available to view online on Quality Meat Scotland’s Facebook page and also on Youtube at QMSMooTube

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