Increasing liveweight production per hectare through better grassland management is the focus of a meeting to be held at Leslie Sloan’s Meadowflatt Farm, Thankerton near Biggar on Tuesday 3rd February.
It will be the inaugural meeting of the newly-established Lanarkshire grazing group, one of six grazing groups that have been set up around Scotland by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). Mr Sloan is looking forward to seeing how improvements and changes to his grass management highlighted in these meetings can help him to increase performance and reduce costs.
The meeting on 3rd February will also be Mr Sloan’s first experience of hosting a group of fellow farmers on his 460 acre Meadowflatt unit, but he hopes that sharing information and hearing from grassland experts is an opportunity for him to advance his programme of grassland improvement.
Facilitated by QMS Knowledge Transfer Specialist Michael Blanche with QMS Grassland Co-ordinator Emily Grant, the meetings, funded by QMS, will be held four times per year for the next three years.
Mr Sloan, who farms in partnership with parents, Hugh and Nancy, purchased the unit in 2012 from Mr Sloan’s sister, Irene and her husband William who moved to an arable enterprise in the north east. Previously farming in West Lothian, Mr Sloan says: “I managed my herd of 50 sucklers at Westfield alongside running a busy agricultural contracting business. Moving to a bigger unit has given me the opportunity to increase the herd to 90 Simmental cross cows and we hope to expand this slightly further in the future.”
Meadowflatt farm is 460 acres, comprising 295 acres of grass, 60 acres of hill and grows 105 acres of barley. A road through the middle splits the farm, which rises from 650 ft to 1050 ft, the arable and rotational grass being mainly on the bottom side with the permanent grass and hill on the higher ground on the top side of the road.
Mr Sloan puts his Simmental cross cows to a Simmental or Angus bull, and splits the calving between spring and autumn with offspring all finished on the farm. Achieving an average deadweight of 370kg, they are sold mainly to McIntosh Donald and A.K. Stoddart. In the most recent batch that went away, five out of the seven achieved U grades. Mr Sloan commented: I’m really happy with my Simmental crosses; they make excellent replacement breeding heifers so I am moving towards closing the herd by selecting my own homebred females.”
Finishing cattle are currently set stocked on the best grass available, being weighed at turnout and again at the end of the summer to assess their performance. This will provide benchmark information for the grazing group and with further analysis, it will be possible for Mr Sloan and each group member to produce figures to demonstrate their own performance in terms of kilos of liveweight produced per hectare. From this figure, benchmarking of the costs of producing each kg of liveweight, for example, nitrogen and feed, can be calculated and compared.
Mr Sloan is a member of the Clyde monitor farm group and thoroughly enjoys the experience, meeting local farmers and benefiting from the group discussions at Carstairs Mains. He is willing to try new ideas to increase performance from grass and feels his involvement with the grazing group will help him to progress his business and adapt for the future.
Since moving to Meadowflatt Mr Sloan has already embarked on an annual reseeding policy. This year he sowed out one of the highest fields, ploughing 16 acres at 1050ft in early spring. It was sown with a grazing mixture including clover and a little barley seed. Mr Sloan is pleased with the sward, which was cut for wholecrop before being grazed later in the season. Nearer the steading a field of Italian Ryegrass was established in 2013 and has proved to be a producer of bumper silage crops, he cut it three times this year.
Mr Sloan has noticed that clover thrives in the area and in the fields that contain a healthy proportion of clover he can reduce the level of fertiliser applied without affecting silage yield. He’s also begun tackling a weed problem that exists in the older pasture and will be interested to hear from other farmers on how they work to eradicate persistent weeds from grassland.”
Michael Blanche, QMS Knowledge Transfer Specialist, said: “I would strongly encourage farmers to attend these meetings as they offer a great opportunity to learn from industry experts and gain a valuable insight into managing grass.”
The meeting at Meadowflatt Farm on February 3rd will be held between 10am and 3pm and lunch will be provided. If you would like to attend, please contact Kirsty at QMS on 0131 472 4040 or email firstname.lastname@example.org