A number of opportunities to potentially improve efficiency and returns have been identified as focus areas for year two of the Moray and Nairn monitor farm.
Cluny – part of the national programme of monitor farms led by Quality Meat Scotland - is a1060 acre unit run by Robbie and Kirsty Newlands and Robbie’s father, also Robbie.
All progeny, mainly Charolais-sired, from the 170 plus mostly British Blue cross Holstein suckler herd, are intensively finished with the males kept entire. Among the areas for improvement which will be explored is improving returns from finishing heifers.
“Currently the bulls are finishing at around 420 days old and killing out at an average dead weight of approximately 380kgs,” said Robbie Newlands jnr. “Whereas the finished heifers, about a month older, are about 80kgs lighter dead weight, suggesting that we’re finishing the heifers too quickly and possibly missing an opportunity to take them to heavier weights.”
In the hope of economically increasing heifer dead weights, while still aiming for the weight specified by their target market, options to be assessed include changing their diet to ensure they grow more in the early stages and/or putting the heifers to grass for a “store” period at 12 to 14 months old.
The community group will be asked to suggest and consider the pros and cons of alternative heifer finishing management systems drawing, where possible, on their own experiences and figures.
A comparison of costs, plus feed and aftermath values between making hay and silage will also be considered. Winter forage at Cluny is currently hay, with 1100 bales made off 120 acres in 2010. This year Robbie Newlands will split a field, making silage from one half and hay from the other.
“The weather can really complicate and add cost to hay making!” commented Mr Newlands. “So it will be good to compare silage and hay cut in the same field, at the same time and in the same conditions. We’ll compare the costs of making both, plus the relative feed values of the crops and aftermaths. The field earmarked for this has a water trough half way along a fence, so will be easy to split for aftermath grazing.”
Soil analysis using GPS mapping grids, assisting accurate lime and fertiliser application and reducing the cost of spreading where it is not needed, is also on Robbie Newland’s “to do” list. And, as the 2011 calves progress it is planned to compare their actual performance to their sire’s EBV figures. The group is looking into the practicalities of DNA testing to ensure accurate sire and progeny identification.
For general information on monitor farms, plus detailed reports of meetings visit www.qmscotland.co.uk/monitorfarms