The many business improvements a Peeblesshire farming family have made during their term as Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) Monitor Farmers will be highlighted at their final meeting on Tuesday 26 January.
Changes to the 1,800 acre Hundleshope Farm near Peebles have been significant over the past three years and farmers Ed and Kate Rowell said they have made a difference to the financial performance and efficiency of the farm.
One example came about following a meeting at which John Vipond, sheep specialist at SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College, spoke about feeding sheep. The community group at this meeting challenged the Rowells to grow better quality silage and they have achieved this during the past three years, with their silage analysing at 11.9 ME last year. As a result, their in-lamb Mule ewes are now fed a diet of silage with a sprinkling of straight soya right up to lambing.
Ed Rowell said: "Soya is expensive but with a requirement of only about 100g per day, feeding 450 ewes only cost us £750 in soya with the rest of their nutritional needs coming from the silage." This has led to financial savings and the Rowells have also seen a reduction in their work-load, saving over one hour a day in time, and doing away with the need for a student at lambing time.
A side-effect of making such good silage is that the yearling calves from the 75 strong suckler cow herd have been 65kg per head heavier on average at sale time.
A full and frank discussion at one of the community group meetings led to the Rowells deciding to buy in quality Simmental cross heifers as replacements instead of pail-fed calves. They have been delighted with the first batch which all calved down well. They are also starting to keep some of their own replacements and hope to move to a running a closed herd in the future.
One of the problems at Hundleshope when the couple took over the farm was the poor quality heather hill which saw the 350 Blackface ewes regularly scanning only 75% in lamb.
To improve the situation, the Rowells decided to move from using feed blocks to ewe rolls three weeks before the tups go out, and wean their lambs earlier. This resulted in a scanning percentage in 2015 of 122% and meant that, for the first time, the Rowells had enough ewe lambs to select the best as replacements instead of having to purchase females.
Kate Rowell said: "We are EID recording the flock and trying to improve by keeping only the best genetics."
The Rowells have really enjoyed having access, not only to some of the experts in their fields, but also to other groups through the Monitor Farm workshops which QMS organises and have found them very informative.
The Rowells have also found the opportunity to make new friends a major benefit of being part of the Monitor Farm programme. They have only been running the Rowells’ family farm for ten years and they did not know a great number of farmers locally when they moved from County Durham, where Kate previously worked as a vet. She said: "We have met so many new people through being part of the project and have developed good relationships with members of our community group."
They have no regrets about joining the Monitor Farm programme. Kate Rowell said: “As a vet, I am used to Continual Professional Development (CPD) assessment and I think that this is the same thing for farming. I believe that farmers should get together and work together for the sake of the industry.”
The video highlighting the changes the Rowells have made can be viewed on the QMS website video library on the Quality Meat Scotland Facebook page and on QMS’s MooTube channel on Youtube.
The final monitor farm meeting at Hundleshope will begin at 1.30pm on Tuesday 26 January and will be followed by supper at the Rugby Club. For catering purposes please phone Edinburgh SAC Consulting office on 0131 603 7520 to confirm your attendance.