Farmers attending the next meeting of the Nithsdale Monitor Farm on Thursday 1st February will hear first-hand how developing an effective grassland management and grazing strategy can help boost livestock performance and improve profit margins.
Alex Brewster, a livestock farmer from Dunkeld in Perthshire, will be the guest speaker this this event, which is free to attend and starts at Clonhie Farm, Penpont, DG3 4NB at 11am.
A Nuffield Scholar and past QMS Grazing Group host, Mr Brewster farms Rotmell in partnership with his parents Alastair and Morag.
A self-confessed ‘grass geek’ Mr Brewster has set himself the challenge of doubling his production by increasing livestock numbers through better utilisation of grass.
Although Rotmell is 1,000 hectares, a large area of that is hill, so Mr Brewster only considers 400 hectares of the land effective.
One of the ways that the family are making best use of the grazing land at Rotmell is to phase out the autumn calvers and increase the number of spring calving commercial Aberdeen-Angus cows. There are also plans to increase the flock of 800 Blackface ewes.
While Mr Brewster has become keenly interested in the science behind the improvements on his farm, especially soil health and quality, the business is also benefitting from a reduction of feed costs, and no bagged fertiliser use which has also reduced costs.
He is positive that every farm can benefit from maximising the potential of its grass. “There are no mistakes – just learning challenges! Every farm is different and you have to learn by experience,” said Mr Brewster.
Whilst at Clonhie, Mr Brewster will give a demonstration of electric fencing, and how it can be used in establishing rotational or paddock grazing systems.
Nithsdale monitor farmer Andrew Marchant currently runs a small suckler herd of 20 Luing cows and almost 1,000 breeding ewes over a total of 303 hectares. In previous years Andrew Marchant, like many farmers in the area, struggled to find enough grazing for his ewes over the winter, so has had to feed concentrates and silage to his sheep, at an additional cost. This year, the ewes at Clonhie have been wintered on deferred grass as well as a kale and swede crop, which was planted for the first time last year after discussion with the management group.
As part of the meeting next week, Mr Marchant will give an update from Clonhie and share with the group a comparison of costs between his previous and new ewe wintering system. He is keen to see if he can pick up any tips from Mr Brewster on how he, and other farmers in the area, can improve the utilisation of the grass they have and save on feed costs.
“We really struggle to find decent grass throughout the winter for our sheep to graze so I’m looking forward to hearing Alex’s views on what we have done this year and see if he can suggest further improvements to our grassland management system.’
The Nithsdale monitor farm is one of nine monitor farms that have been established around Scotland in a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds. The aim of the programme, which is funded by Scottish Government, is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.
Monitor farm meetings are open and free for all farmers to attend. The meeting on Thursday 1st February will begin at 11am at Clonhie Farm before moving to nearby Tynron Hall for lunch. The meeting is expected to finish at 3.30pm.
To book your place please contact Judith Hutchison, by 12 noon on Monday 29 January on 07718 919055 or email email@example.com .
For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.monitorfarms.co.uk.