30th May 2018

Pasture Utilisation and Barley Yield under Spotlight at Bigton

The potential to make better use of  pasture and barley variety trials will be among the areas under the spotlight of the next meeting of the Shetland Monitor Farm on Saturday 2nd June.

Shetland generally has longer winters and shorter summers than the rest of the UK, which can make it difficult for livestock farmers to grow enough grass or crops to feed their animals all year round.

Last year, sisters Kirsty and Aimee Budge from Bigton, the Shetland Monitor Farm, tried rotational grazing for the first time to help better utilise the grass that they had.

“We invested in some electric fencing and set up about seven acres of rotational grazing for our cows last year,” said Kirsty Budge. “It worked really well, so we plan to set up around 20 acres this summer.

“One thing we learnt last year was the importance of keeping track of grass growth, so this year we will be using a grass measuring plate meter to make sure that we know when to move stock to keep the grass at the optimal height.”

Trevor Cook, a vet and grassland consultant will be the key speaker at the meeting. Most of his time is spent as a sheep and beef production consultant, working one-on-one with farm owners and managers around New Zealand and more recently in the UK.

At the meeting, which will begin at Bigton Hall at 11am, Mr Cook will cover issues including pasture utilisation, nitrogen use and the ewe and cow feed requirement throughout the year, to help Shetland livestock keepers achieve optimal performance in their livestock.

“Using the minimum amount of pasture to achieve the production targets set is the essence of profitable farming.” Said Mr Cook.

“Livestock keepers can calculate the feed demand of their animals and how much grass and crops they are likely to produce. By anticipating the likely feed supply and knowing what the feed demand of their animals will be, they can make changes to their management to ensure that supply is enough.”

At the meeting on 2nd June, Kirsty and Aimee Budge will also give a round-up of lambing and calving at Bigton this spring. The sisters currently lamb around 360 ewes and calve 68 cows starting in May. “This year’s lambing kicked off really well with 89% of ewes lambing in the first two weeks,” said Aimee Budge. “Calving has also gone well so far. We did lose three calves at the beginning, but have had a couple of sets of twins which has helped.” 

Bigton farm is one of the few farms on Shetland that grow barley. The Budges are keen to find ways to maximise the yield of their crop and are currently running a small trial with AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds to see if there is a variety more suited to their farm than the Wagon variety they currently grow.

The farm has therefore established four one-acre plots and sown Golden Promise, Fairing, Anneli and Brage varieties in each. The four trial plots have also benefited from recommended nitrogen and other fertiliser supplementation and it is hoped that the results will highlight whether an investment in agronomy and seed varieties can increase their barley yield in the future.

The Shetland 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.

The meeting on Saturday 2nd June will begin at Bigton Hall at 11am and end at 3pm. Lunch will be provided.

To book your attendance (and lunch!) please contact Graham Fraser, SAC Consulting Lerwick on 01595 693520 or email frbslerwick@sac.co.uk

For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.monitorfarms.co.uk

Sign up for the latest news and views